Facebook reportedly considering adding 1+ billion members’ photos to facial recognition database
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Facebook is considering adding the majority of its over 1 billion members’ profile photos to a massive facial recognition database, according to Reuters.
Though they’ve considered this move in the past, the process was delayed by a significant amount of outcry from European legislators. That hasn’t stopped them from developing the technology, evidenced by their acquisition of Israeli facial recognition company Face.com last year.
Facebook revealed the possible action in an update to their data use policy on Thursday, Reuters reports, something which they claim is aimed at improving the performance of their “Tag Suggest” feature.
“Tag Suggest” uses facial recognition technology to make the process of tagging people in photos posted to Facebook faster and easier. Many privacy advocates voiced concerns about the capability when it was first announced in 2011.
Currently, Facebook automatically identifies faces in someone’s new photos uploaded to the site by comparing them to previous pictures the users were tagged in.
As Reuters interestingly points out, “The changes would come at a time when Facebook and other Internet companies’ privacy practices are under scrutiny, following the revelations of a U.S. government electronic surveillance program.”
Indeed, reports revealed that internet giants like Google and Facebook worked directly with the government on the PRISM program, though they issued cleverly worded denials after the reports were published.
The obvious implication is that this type of information could be used by the government, which would hardly be surprising given the amount of money spent on facial recognition programs.
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan claimed that the proposed move would actually give users better control over their personal information by making it easier to identify the photos in which they appear.
“Our goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service,” Egan said.
Interestingly, Egan could not deny that the facial recognition technology could be used for other features.
“Can I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not,” Egan said.
However, she said that Facebook users who are uncomfortable with the idea of their profile pictures being used in a giant facial recognition database will still have the ability to opt-out of the Tag Suggest feature.
The entire feature is “not available in Europe due to concerns raised by regulators there,” Reuters reports.
While Egan could not say if facial recognition will be used for anything other than Tag Suggest, she claimed “if we decided to use it in different ways we will continue to provide people transparency about that and we will continue to provide control.”
Facebook also changed the language contained in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities in order to indicate that users under 18 have “indicated that their parent or legal guardian has given Facebook permission to let marketers use ‘some’ of their personal data in ads. It’s unclear what constitutes ‘some,’” International Business Times reports.
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