Facebook Faces Facts, Adjusts Tag Suggestions

by Jordan Richardson on July 27, 2011

Facial recognition technology is one of those contentious “advances” that appears to be peeking into virtually every corner of our “advanced” lives. For some time, it was the well-worn ground of security agencies. Used to help in policing and in verifying documentation, facial recognition software used to be something only the very secretive and very serious could get their hands on.

These days, facial recognition technology is working its way into consumer culture. The thirst to create as much profit as humanly possible is venturing into some interesting territory – and Facebook is leading the charge.

“Tag Suggestions” is a Facebook feature that lets users tag their picture more conveniently. The tool scans newly uploaded pics, compares faces in the photos and attempts to match those faces with other uploaded pictures. Facebook alerts the user when a match is found and the person can then be tagged in the picture.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen wrote a letter to Facebook in June and informed them that “Tag Suggestions” compromised the privacy rights of the site’s users.

Facebook met with Jepsen and has since run advertisements, informing users about the feature and allowing them the option to opt-out.

“Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users, not only in Connecticut, but across the country,” Jepsen said in a statement on Tuesday. “The company has been cooperative and diligent in its response.”

“People across the country using Facebook will be more aware of our personalized privacy settings, and how they can be used to benefit their experience on the site,” Tim Sparapani, director of public policy at Facebook, said on Tuesday. “We hope that people on Facebook will find the results to be helpful and useful.”

Automatic photo-tagging suggestions are only made when users add new pictures. Only friends are suggested for tagging and users can disable the feature in their settings.

The problem most people are having with the Facebook feature is that it is automatically enabled. Privacy experts rightly argue that it should be up to the user to enable it. There are also some questions about information that can be associated with the feature, such as email addresses, in Facebook’s database. Because the database houses so much information, privacy experts are concerned and filed a complaint with the U. S. Federal Trade Commission with the request of an investigation.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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