Facebook Facial Recognition – Should You Be Concerned?

By now you’ve probably read in the social networking news that Facebook has gone and done it again.  They quietly added a new feature to their service and configured it to opt in users by default.

This time Facebook introduced facial recognition technology that is currently being used to suggest names of people in newly uploaded photos , making the task of photo tagging easier.  Whenever you post photos to your account, Facebook tries to detect which people you may have previously tagged in your other photo albums.

Lots of folks have weighed in on the implications of Facebook’s use of facial recognition, expressing a range of attitudes from “fear & loathing” to “whatever.”  My take is somewhere in the middle.  Users should be aware of the technology’s implications and how to opt out of it, but realize that it’s no more dangerous than trusting Facebook to safeguard the pictures they already have of you.

Why You Shouldn’t Be (Overly) Concerned

Let’s face it, posting your personal information, including photos, on Facebook already puts your privacy at risk. If you are the type of person that allows everybody to see your personal information, photos, your location at any given time and so on, facial recognition doesn’t really add anything into the mix that you should be concerned about.  Your information is out there, you put it there, and so you must be OK with that, right?

For those of us who take a more cautious approach to information sharing, don’t forget that there are many things you can do to control your exposure on Facebook.  The Paranoid’s Guide to Facebook offers many good suggestions on how you can do this.  Using these controls goes a long way to ensuring your safety on Facebook.

You can also opt out of facial recognition altogether by following these steps:

  1. Go to Facebook.com then select Account > Privacy Settings.
  2. Click on “Customize settings” below the list of privacy setting categories.
  3. Scroll down to the “Things others share” section.
  4. Click on the “Edit Settings” button under “Suggest photos of me to friends.”
  5. Select “Disabled” in the pull down menu in the “Photos: Suggest Tags” panel.

Final Word of Caution

Bear in mind that opting out of suggesting photos of you to friends through facial recognition doesn’t stop Facebook from continuing to analyze your photos. Be reassured though that you and your kids can remain safe on Facebook. Just remember to be vigilant about staying informed in regard to their technology capabilities and make use of privacy controls to limit your exposure.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and in no way represent the views or opinions of my employer, Trend Micro.

By Vic Hargrave

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