Facebook Wants To Use Profile Pictures To Suggest Tags
August 30, 2013

Facebook Wants To Use Profile Pictures To Suggest Tags

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Facebook announced another round of changes to its privacy policy and user rights policy in an email sent to its users late last night. The social behemoth now wants to use its facial recognition technology to automatically scan users’ profile pictures, thereby letting the social network suggest tags in pictures.

A US judge recently approved a settlement wherein Facebook will pay out $20 million after using users’ profile pictures in advertisements on the site, a feature they call “Sponsored Stories.” As a part of this settlement, Facebook was required to make its policies more clear to users. Previously when Facebook wanted to make changes to its policies, it would give users a say in the matter with a vote.

Last year Facebook put this vote up to a vote and following a lower turnout than Facebook required, this privilege no longer exists.

The new changes explain that Facebook uses information such as birthdays and locations to determine which ads it serves up. It also explains that Facebook receives data about a user whenever he/she interacts with the social site or even have it running in the background.

In the new proposed changes, Facebook also says granting it permission to user’s information, such as a profile picture, allows it to provide users with “innovative features and services we develop in the future that use the information we receive [about our users]"

“We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged,” reads the new portion explaining how the company plans to use its facial recognition technology.

“You can control whether we suggest that another user tag you in a photo using the ‘Timeline and Tagging’ settings,” it said.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan thinks this is a positive move for users, saying the feature offers several benefits to them.

“It’s actually a good thing to be tagged in more photos, because that’s how you’ll know they exist on Facebook,” said Egan in an interview with All Things D.

Egan then says users can take the pictures down from Facebook once they’ve been scanned and put them into the system. The auto-tagging feature will be turned on automatically once the new changes are implemented, but users will be able to hunt for the off switch in their settings. This feature has been available to users since 2010, but the new changes will turn it on by default for most users. One notable exception: European Facebookers will have to opt-in to use this feature due to some regulatory difficulties.

In her interview with All Things D, Egan was quite clear about Facebook’s intentions with user data.

“We want to be really, really clear that whenever you give us information, we’re going to take it,” said Egan. All sorts of information, including IP addresses, device information, what Pages users visit and credit card information are all stored and used in some capacity by Facebook.

The site is letting users comment on these new changes and offers its feedback before it finally implements them.

Facebook’s $20 million settlement in the Sponsored Stories case received final approval on Monday. Those users who have a valid claim that Facebook used their profile picture in an advertisement can file to receive $15 from the site.