June 08, 2011

Facebook Facial Recognition a Bit Creepy


Facebook (News - Alert) has recently doled out yet another feature as part of its social networking experience. The feature, already live here in the good ol’ U.S., uses facial recognition technology to prompt your friends to tag (News - Alert) photos of you.

It’s one thing for someone to recognize you at the supermarket and another thing entirely for a hosted application to know who you are via other peoples photos. The creep factor is up there, and the news as of this morning is people are rightfully freaking out.

Security firm Sophos expressed concern that Facebook’s facial-recognition technology had been turned on by default, PCMag.com reports:

“Now might be a good time to check your Facebook privacy settings as many Facebook users are reporting that the site has enabled the option in the last few days without giving users any notice,” Sophos’ Graham Cluley wrote in a blog post.

The social-networking site acknowledged that it should have been more communicative about the service’s roll-out, but did not announce plans to make it opt-in.

The site provides no way for users to pre-approve photos they are tagged in, and must instead untag themselves manually after they have been tagged.

“Many people feel uncomfortable about a site like Facebook learning what they look like, and using that information without their permission,” says Brett Myroff, CEO of regional Sophos distributor, Sophos South Africa.

“Facebook users should have to ‘opt-in’ to the facial recognition feature, rather than the onus being on them to ‘opt-out’.”

PCWorld points out that the more you tag, the more Facebook learns about what you look like, and it could eventually lead to searching for someone by taking a picture of them.

The EU just launched a probe to investigate the personal privacy ramifications of the new feature. Even if you opt-out of the service, Facebook is probably still going to learn your face, only it won't suggest your face to others.

Before everyone runs to their profiles to delete any and all traces of their faces, there are ways to protect your profile from this feature.

If you’re uncomfortable with Facebook using facial recognition technology to identify you in photos and automatically suggesting these to your friends to tag, you can disable this easily in your Facebook privacy settings under “Suggest photos of me to friends.”

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Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Jennifer Russell