Disabling Facebook’s Facial Recognition for Privacyby Adam Pliszka, cyber-defense.net
June 13th 2011
Facebook has a number of nifty features meant to enhance the networking experience for users, but the problem is that in developing many of these features Facebook continually chooses to implement them as a default setting, forcing users to have to opt-out of participation rather than allowing them to opt-in.
The latest addition is the global roll out of the facial recognition feature that is designed to automatically make an attempt to recognize faces in photos submitted by members and make “tagging suggestions”.
“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. Tag suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. If for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their privacy settings,” a Facebook spokesperson explains.
Sure, everyone at Facebook thinks about Facebook all day long because it is their job and livelihood, but for the hundreds of millions of users the social network is merely a pleasant distraction, and the need to constantly stay on top of privacy and security options is a bit of a nuisance.
“When we announced this feature last December, we explained that we would test it, listen to feedback and iterate before rolling it out more broadly. We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them. Tag Suggestions are now available in most countries and we’ll post further updates to our blog over time,” the Facebook spokesperson’s statement continued.
What is truly annoying about Facebook’s setup from a privacy perspective is that users have very little control over what other members post about them, particularly when it comes to photos and tagging, and the facial recognition feature further aggravates the situation.
As Sophos’ Graham Cluley points out, “remember, Facebook does not give you any right to pre-approve tags. Instead the onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in. After the fact.”
The issue boils down to this: Should users have to constantly monitor what is being tagged and displayed by “friends” in their network for fear that their reputation may be damaged or they may simply be embarrassed by what someone else might have judged to be an innocuous photo?
For some, this is a non-issue. For the rest of us, here is how to disable the facial recognition and tag suggestion feature:
Under you Facebook “Account” drop down menu in the upper right hand column, choose the “Privacy Settings” option
Select the “Customize Settings” option near the bottom of the list
Go to the second section of options called “Things Others share”
“Edit” the option “Suggest Photos of Me to Friends”
Choose to “Disable” the feature and press “OK”
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