Facebook Face Play No Big Surprise

June 14, 2011

You might be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about Facebook’s newest addition to its social network–facial recognition software. That’s right – the beloved social network is building a database of their user’s faces and telling us it’s all to make our lives easier. As discussed in “Facebook Quietly Switches on Facial Recognition Tech by Default” the controversial feature allows users “to automatically provide tags for the photos uploaded” by recognizing facial features of your friends from previously uploaded photos. Yet again, Facebook finds themselves under fire their laissez-faire attitude towards privacy.

This latest Facebook technology is being vilified. It has been called “creepy,” “disheartening,” and even “terrifying.” These are words that would usually be reserved for the likes of Charles Manson or Darth Vader, not an online social network. The biggest backlash seems to come from the fact that the didn’t “alert its international stalkerbase that its facial recognition software had been switched on by default within the social network.” This opt-out, instead of opt-in, attitude is what is upsetting the masses. Graham Cluely, a UK-based security expert says that “[y]et again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth.”

To be fair, Facebook released a notice on The Facebook Blog in December 2010that the company was unleashing its “tag suggestions” to United States users and when you hear them describe the technology it seems to be anything, but Manson-esque. In fact, it invokes thoughts of Happy Days. They say that since people upload 100 million tagged photos everyday, that they simply are helping “you and your friends relive everything from that life-altering skydiving trip to a birthday dinner where the laughter never stopped.” They go as far as to say that photo tags are an “essential tool for sharing important moments” and facial recognition just makes that easier.

Google has also been working on facial recognition technology in the form of a smartphone app known as Google Googles and celebrity recognition. However, now Google is claiming to have halted the project because, as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said “[p]eople could use this stuff in a very, very bad way as well as in a good way.” See “Facebooks’s Again in Spotlight on Privacy”.

So who’s right? Facebook by moving forward or Google by holding up its facial recognition technology?

It seems to me that Google is just delaying the inevitable. Let’s face it. As a Facebook user my right to my privacy may be  compromised the second I sign up in exchange for what Facebook offers.

Technology, like the facial recognition software, is changing the social media landscape, and I suppose I should not be surprised when the company implements its newest creation even when it puts my privacy at risk.

Is it creepy?

Probably and users should be given an opportunity to opt-in, not out. Is it deplorable. No. It’s our option to join and Facebook is taking full advantage of it.

Jennifer Wensink, June 14, 2011

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, the resource for enterprise search information and current news about data fusion


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