Why Facebook's facial recognition is making headlines

Under fire for compromising user data, Facebook is back to what it does best - and maybe worst
By Eddie Taylor
Thu 19 Apr 2018 04:24 PM

So it seems that Facebook is back in the news...

Not that it was ever away...

What is it this time?

News came out last week that it wants to reintroduce controversial technologies such as facial recognition to its platform in territories such as Europe and Canada where it had been dropped in light of data privacy concerns.

Why does Facebook need facial recognition tools?

It’s a feature deployed in certain territories already and, when it was first introduced in 2011 as “Tag Suggestions”, it was billed as a way of helping users tag friends in pictures you upload. You know, so you can help spread the fuzzy social goodness of Facebook. In December, though, the scope was widened to include alerting users should someone post a pictures of them without permission.

And the real reason?

All of the above, of course. Plus it also gives Facebook more information on you, your friends, you family, where you are…

How does it work?

Each user is assigned a unique number, or template, which is derived from the way they look in their profile photograph and other images they’re in. Any untagged faces in photos that a user posts are compared to Facebook’s database of templates.

Why is it in the news now?

Facebook has been sending notifications to users around the world to seek their permission to use the technology to capture facial data from your pictures and videos. It’s actually using the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May 25, as the basis for doing so – and also using that as its benchmark for all territories from now on.

So why the fuss?

Last week in the US, a judge ruled that the company would have to face a class-action lawsuit alleging that it violated Illinois state law by storing biometric data without users’ consent. Also, a collection of consumer privacy organisations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about scanning photos for biometric matches without the consent of either the subject of the image or the person who uploaded the photo.

Can you opt out?

Yes. Got to Settings > Face Recognition and switch it off.

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Last Updated: Mon 23 Apr 2018 12:44 PM GST

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