Social media users are up in arms this week with the revelation that Facebook is using facial recognition software to provide tagging suggestions. Of course the primary objection is that users feel that they were not provided adequate notice that the feature was being deployed.
Natasha Lennard at Salon recently asked, Is Facebook’s facial recognition tool as creepy as it seems?, and said,
Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, a bar association that works on civil rights and activism issues, told Salon:
Corporations have a history of sharing personal information with the government, especially when the administration says the information is vital to advancing national security interests. Facial recognition tracking is yet another tool in the government’s arsenal of data-gathering and data-banking mechanisms that threaten our civil liberties. As with any data collection technology, there is a great margin of error, enormous possibility for government abuse, and little recourse for the countless number of individuals who unwittingly find their privacy invaded.
As it stands, the Facebook Tag Suggestion tool is supposed to function simply as a convenience between friends online. However, the potential for abuses are far too rife for the social network to have implemented this tool as a default setting.
I mentioned facial recognition software two years ago when Picasa introduced the feature to allow users to search their own photos. But the Facebook initiative, which searches on a users behalf without them initiating the search appears raise entirely different privacy concerns.
Users can opt-out of the Facebook Tagging Suggestions program by following the instructions provided by Sophos.