Quick Tip: How and Why to Turn Off Facebook’s Facial Recognition Tagging

Security & Privacy, Tips & Tricks

Here’s how to turn off Facebook’s facial recognition, which will stop you from being automatically suggested for tagging in your friends’ photos:

  1. Log into Facebook and click on the lock in the upper right corner:
    screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-27-25-am
  2. Click on “See More Settings”.
    screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-09-05-am
  3. In the left column click on “Timeline and Tagging”.
    screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-33-56-am
  4. Under “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?” find “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?” and click “Edit”. (NOTE: This feature may not be available in all countries.)
    screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-39-11-am
  5.  Select “No one”.
    screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-39-44-am

Why would you want to turn off Facebook’s facial recognition?

The simple answer is you may not want pictures of you automatically identified and then tagged in pictures posted to the site, especially if you’re picky about pictures.

The more complex answer is that facial recognition is a little creepy and has the potential to get a lot creepier, fast. And this is at least something you can do to remind yourself of the new frontier of social media we’re facing, whether we like it or not.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” reads the caption for a classic 1993 New Yorker cartoon and historians will likely have to note that it was drawn about a decade before Facebook was founded.

Yes, Facebook knows if you’re a dog — or a cat.

In a post on Digital Inspiration, Amit Agarwal gives a quick explanation on how to see what Facebook’s artificial intelligence “DeepFace” can see inside your pictures.

With a few clicks, I found that if you post a picture like this:

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-4-31-04-pm

Facebook sees this:
screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-4-07-18-pm

The world’s largest social media site has access to the greatest collection of photographs ever collected and they’re learning from them all. It helps you tag your photos, which helps it deliver more content to your friends, which keeps people coming back to the site because we love picture. There’s nothing too creepy about that — except, perhaps, the accuracy.

“According to the company’s research, DeepFace recognizes faces with an accuracy rate of 97.35 percent compared with 97.5 percent for humans — including mothers,” Bloomberg reported last year.

Yes, Facebook is almost as good at recognizing your face as your mom is.

If you’re a fan of the Netflix series Black Mirror, you may have seen the episode “Nosedive,” which depicts the troubling aspects of the confluence of social media and facial recognition heightened to nightmarish Twilight Zone-esque extremes. The show ponders a future where our mobile devices recognize everyone we see through facial recognition that captures images through a contact lens.

But the future is coming faster than you may think.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-10-00-59-am

The app FindFace already searches a database of over 200 million people from the Russian social network Vkontakte to match faces with 70 percent accuracy.

“Could someone do the same thing to Facebook?” Jonathan Frankle at The Atlantic asked himself. “Probably not.”

Facebook, Twitter, and Google have banned the “automated data collection” that makes it possible.

“Although mimicking FindFace on the scale of the entire Internet is probably still beyond the realm of technical feasibility for the moment, it may not be impossible for long,” he says.

And then the days of being an anonymous “face in the crowd.”

If this bothers you, you may want to stop encouraging Facebook from recognizing you. And you may want to think twice about sharing your face all over the web.

UPDATE: A Finnish user has informed me that tag suggestions is not yet available for him. I’m not sure why that is or what this means about Facebook’s data collection. F-Secure’s Micke Albrecht wonders, “Could it be that Facebook doesn’t have enough face data on all users, and doesn’t present this setting to users it can’t detect?”

[Photo via Netflix.]

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