FACEBOOK HAS invaded the online privacy of millions of its users by switching on facial recognition technology without informing them. The leading social networking Website has ‘ enabled’ a function that automatically identifies people in photos without their knowledge.
The feature has been expanded from the US to ‘ most countries’, Facebook said on its official blog.
Its ‘ Tag Suggestions’ feature uses facial recognition technology to speed up the process of labelling friends and acquaintances that appear in photos posted on Facebook. So, for instance, if a friend ‘ tags’ you in one photo, the technology will automatically scan your face and then try and find matches among all their pictures. It will then suggest that they ‘ tag’ these photos of you as well.
Tagged photos typically appear in your photo stream as well as in your friends’ streams, depending on your settings. When the function was launched in the US, Facebook contacted users directly a few weeks before — an action not taken when the same was launched in Europe.
Internet security consultant firm Sophos first reported the change earlier this week, after Facebook users reported that the site had enabled the facial recognition option in the last few days without giving users any notice.
“Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth,” wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos.
Facebook, which announced that it planned to introduce the service in the US in December, acknowledged that the feature was now more widely available. Facebook also stated that: “We should have been more clear with people during the roll- out process when this became available to them”. The statement noted that the photo- tagging suggestions are only made when new photos are added to Facebook, that only friends are suggested and that users can disable the feature in their privacy settings.
While other photo software and online services such as Google Inc’s Picasa and Apple Inc’s iPhoto use facial recognition technology, the use of the technology on an Internet social network like Facebook, which counts more than 500million users, could raise thorny privacy issues.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the non- profit privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center ( EPIC), noted that Apple’s iPhoto software gave users control over facial recognition technology by letting them elect whether or not to use the technology with their personal photo collections.
Facebook’s technology operates independently, analyzing faces across a broad swathe of newly uploaded photos. Rotenberg said such a system raised questions about which personally identifiable information would become associated with the photos in Facebook’s database. He also criticized Facebook’s decision to automatically enable the facial- recognition technology for Facebook users.
“I’m not sure that’s the setting that people would want to choose. A better option would be to let people opt- in,” he said on his blog.
A spokeswoman from Facebook said, “ We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day”.
Article Credits: Mail Today