This week social networking giant Facebook addressed privacy criticism over its controversial face recognition technology used to analyze member’s uploaded photographs. Due to complaints from the Connecticut Attorney General’s office in the US, the world’s largest social network had to make an easier opt-out of its facial recognition feature for photos. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen stated that he was satisfied by Facebook’s response. Jepsen was one of the most vocal critics of the Tag Suggestions feature, and informed that “Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users”.
The issue was raised from the point that Facebook doesn’t allow members total control of their privacy by default. Compared to other photo software and online services such as Google’s Picasa and Apple’s iPhoto, the use of facial recognition gives users control over privacy by letting them elect whether or not to use the biometric technology with personal photo collections.
Facebook launched the feature in December automatically enabled, analyzing faces on newly uploaded pictures. Facial recognition had been turned on by default without member’s permission. This raised concerns among privacy advocates that argued it should be up to users, not Facebook, to allow it.
Facebook admitted their fault in the roll-out and informed that “should have been more clear” about the new feature. In response they have begun an awareness campaign that includes running advertisements on all user profiles to help them to learn about the feature and how they can control it. The ads welcome members to adjust their privacy settings. Members will see a box on the right-side of their homepage that explains the facial recognition-enhanced feature and links people to their privacy settings should they want to change them.
The controversy over facial recognition was just the latest in a number of privacy issues to hit Facebook, which now has over 750 million members worldwide. The feature has not been released to members in all geographic regions.