Why Regulators Are Concerned About Facebook Facial Recognition

 
on June 18 2011 10:50 AM

Many regulators are fighting back against Facebook’s facial recognition feature.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in a complaint file to the FTC, called it a “biometric data collection” scheme that violates privacy and adversely impacts consumers.

The European Union’s data-protection regulatory group is launching a probe into this feature. So are those in the UK and Ireland.

In the US, the Attorney General from Connecticut has expressed concerns. 

What’s the big fuss about the Facebook facial recognition feature? There are two major issues at hand.

The first is user opt-in. Critics, including the Connecticut AG, contend that the feature should require “users to affirmatively consent.” Currently, Facebook only provides options for users to opt-out.

The second is the inherent “biometric data collection.” EPIC points out that Facebook has the largest private database of labeled facial photographs.  In all, EPIC thinks Facebook has 60 billion photos on over 500 million users around the world.

The big question is if it’s really a good idea for a private company to possess biometric data that can identity at least 500 million people from their faces.  The danger is that either Facebook will abuse it or that a third-party will get its hands on the data and abuse it.

So far, Facebook hasn’t changed its practice.  Below are four ways you can opt-out of its facial recognition feature and data collection.

1. Disable the Facebook facial recognition auto-suggest function for photo tagging.

Go to Account (upper right corner of homepage) - Privacy Settings - Custom settings (bottom middle) - Suggest photos of me to friends - Enabled/Disabled (check Disabled)

2. Vigilantly monitor your notifications about being tagged in photos so you can be in control of this data.

3. Upload pictures of celebrities or other people and tag them as yourself.  The point is to pollute Facebook’s facial recognition database of you so that its ability to identify you is weakened.

 4. Request Facebook to remove your summary information from its facial recognition database (hat tip to PCWorld).

Login to Facebook - Click on this link - Click the contact us hyperlink (In the sentence You can contact us to request that we remove all of your photo summary information) - send Facebook the automated message that pops up in the box

 

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