Facebook Enables Facial Recognition for Everyone

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-06-07

Hey, Facebook, remember that privacy by default thing that we asked for a few months ago? Well, the facial recognition feature would have been a fantastic place to start.


Facebook has enabled face recognition for all its users recently, Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, wrote on the NakedSecurity blog June 7. As users upload their photographs to their Facebook accounts, Facebook will automatically scan the images for friends and prompt the original user to tag them.

If your colleague is uploading pictures from a recent work outing to Facebook, the site will automatically recognize you and your other co-workers and urge the colleague to tag them. While the actually tagging is still done by friends, Facebook is doing all the work and proactively reminding users to do so.

"If this is something you're uncomfortable with, disable 'Suggest photos of me to friends" now,' Cluley wrote. (We tell you how at the end)

Many people feel distinctly uncomfortable about a site like Facebook learning what they look like, and using that information without their permission, Cluley said. All the users are already in the Facebook system, and there's no way to "pre-approve" tags beforehand. If you don't want to be tagged, you have to manually un-tag yourself afterwards.

With facial recognition in place, is it likely that some of your friends who couldn't be bothered to take the time to tag photos will now start doing so? It seems reasonable, and that means just more work manual effort for the unwilling tagee.

It's one thing to be tagged in photos if your friends are pretty restrictive in who can see their albums. But what about that one friend whose default setting is to let anyone on Facebook see their images? Suddenly people you don't even know can easily see pictures of you (or you kids), properly tagged to your account, until you get around to un-tagging them.

The social networking site has been testing out the technology with a small group of users over the past year.

Some may wonder what's the harm, since what can Facebook do with it? It just speeds up tagging by your friends, right? Well, considering Facebook has the option to let user images be used in targeted advertisements on the site, some disturbing possibilities come to mind. The social networking site hasn't exactly been a friend to online privacy of its users.

The whole thing would feel less creepy if Facebook had at least publicized that it was enabling the feature, instead of this stealth opt-in. At least then, privacy-conscious folks could disable their settings accordingly.

Here's how to disable the setting:

    • Go to your Facebook account's privacy settings.

    • Click on "Customise settings".

    • Under "Things others share" you should see an option titled "Suggest photos of me to friends. When photos look like me, suggest my name".

    • Click on "Edit settings".

    • If Facebook has enabled auto-suggestion of photo tags you will find the option says "Enabled". Change it to "Disabled" to turn off facial recognition.

    • ress OK

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