Facebook Facial Recognition Questions and Answers

Security & Privacy

What is Facebook facial recognition?
Facebook says facial recognition is a way to make photo tagging easier.   Using image data taken from the more than 90 billion photos that have been uploaded to the site, Facebook uses faceprints to find your friends in your photos as you upload them. This feature has been available in the US since the end of 2010 and is now available in most countries.

Is it on in my account?
Yes. It probably is. Facebook opts all users into facial recognition, as it does to most new features.

Ew. Can I turn this off now?
Yes. Go to Account> Privacy> Click on “Customize settings”> Under “Things Others Share” find “Suggest photos of me to friends” and click the Edit Settings button > Click the button that says Enabled and select Disabled.

Am I safe now?
You’re probably safe, unless you’re reading this as you’re driving. But if you’re worried about controlling your image on Facebook, you should probably check your profile, adjust your photo tagging settings and stop search engines from finding your profile.

Okay. I can feel my hands again. Now why was I so scared?
You’re not alone. Maybe you thought strangers would be able to identify you by just posting a picture?

Yes. I don’t want strangers to be able to point their phones at me and know who I am. Can they do that?
Not using Facebook’s facial recognition. Only your friends will be able to identify you in pictures. For strangers to have access to your faceprint, Facebook would have to radically change the feature. This seems unlikely given how sensitive users are to facial recognition. Google has indicated they wouldn’t pursue such a stranger search because the former CEO found the technology “very concerning.”

So there’s no danger?
Well, are you looking for a job or might you be at some point?

Probably.
Then your images could end up as part of a pre-employment background check. And this feature may help your friends tag you in a photo that may not impress your future employer.

How can I make sure that never happens?
You can’t opt out of new photos you are tagged in on a one-by-one basis. Or you can just make sure you’re the only one who can see that you’ve been tagged in a photo…

I want to do that. I want to be the only one who can see if I’m tagged in a photo. How do I do that?
Go to Account> Privacy> Click on “Customize settings”> Under “Things Others Share” find “Photos or videos I’m tagged in” and click Edit Settings>  Next to “Who can see photos and videos I’m tagged in” select Custom> Below “Make this visible to” select “Only me.”

Why does Facebook make it so hard to make it so I’m the only one who can see if I’m tagged in a photo?
Facebook has complex settings because it has complex features. Additionally, photo tagging is also extremely important to Facebook’s growth. Photo sharing is the site’s core competency and photo tags generate updates in your feed that bring you back to the site. Additionally, Facebook’s growth is coming from countries where mobile phone adoption is massive. Quick tagging tools enable mobile users to tag on the go. Facebook really does want to make photo tagging easy for you—for business and not surveillance reasons.

Shouldn’t this be something that I have to opt into?
Lots of people say, “Yes.”Facebook opts users into new features because Facebook is a business and this feature is much more useful to its business if everyone is using it. Since Facebook didn’t see a change in what you share with whom, it rolled facial recognition out to all users. Facebook has said it should have been “more clear’ about the feature.

So it’s not the end of the world.
It’s the beginning of a new world. Privacy issues involving facial recognition and location sharing are evolving on a daily basis. All of us have to think of the practical implications of making ourselves easier to identify and locate. Numerous unforeseen benefits and costs likely await us all.

Cheers,
Jason

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2 Comments

I may be in someone else’s picture posted without my authorisation. How can I stop that?

I don’t use Facebook for all sorts of privacy and control reasons – like why should they read my or others’ content as I understand they do, to generate business?. A computer user in my 50’s brought up in the world of viruses thinks very differently about sharing material.

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