July 27, 2011

Facebook Addresses Privacy Concerns Over Facial Recognition

Facebook has decided to show users how to turn off its facial recognition feature after privacy concerns were voiced.

The social network uses facial recognition technology to identify people in photographs posted on Facebook, and then suggests to their friends that they should "tag" them so they are easier to find.

Privacy campaigners were concerned that photographs could be shared more widely than intended and that Facebook was "eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth," reports The Telegraph.  They said users should have been given a choice as to whether to participate.

Facebook said it "should have been more clear" about the system and is now running adverts on all user profiles that "help people to learn about the feature and how they can control it."

The ads invite users to adjust their privacy settings.  Facebook said they have been displayed over 2.7 billion times.

George Jepsen, the attorney general of Connecticut, who was among the most vocal critics of Tag Suggestions, said on Tuesday that he was satisfied by Facebook's response.

"Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users," he said in a statement.

"For any users who opt out, any facial recognition data collected will be deleted."

The social network has also helped the process for reporting fake accounts or impostors after Connecticut Representative Kim Rose complained to Jepsen about the difficulty of removing an account that had been labeled as hers and that asked for money.

Facebook set up a "roadblock" system in response to this.  This system freezes accounts reported until they are verified.

"Although this measure won't totally stop fraudulent pages from being created, it will have a significant impact on reducing the amount of time they are active," Jepsen said in a statement.


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