Facebook’s recognition software worrying

Keelia Moeller

For those of you who upload photos onto Facebook and marvel at the fact that your computer miraculously knows whom to tag in them, understand that this knowledge isn’t from pure luck of the draw.
 
Facebook has developed a new facial recognition technology. The feature uses biometry — the process in which someone’s physical traits are detected electronically in order to confirm identity — to “remember” users’ faces so it can automatically tag them in photographs.
 
More specifically, the program translates each user’s face into a series of assigned numbers. This creates a “faceprint” unique to each user, allowing for facial recognition.
 
The recent development has sparked a great deal of controversy. Although Facebook maintains that its biometric software improves the user’s experience, privacy advocates aren’t so sure.
 
Due to privacy concerns, officials in Europe and Canada have already ordered the system to be permanently shut off. Europe made clear its disapproval of facial recognition back in 2012, when officials there required Facebook to remove the program from its site. 
 
This is an idea that the United States ought to take into consideration.
 
Many privacy advocates have already pointed out that this country’s face data regulation methods are subpar. It is not unheard of for face recognition data to be collected or stored without the user’s knowledge. 
 
This lack of permission led Carlo Licata to file a lawsuit against Facebook this spring on the grounds that, in its terms of service, Facebook never notified users that it would collect their facial data. The company’s actions, he claims, v  iolated Illinois state law.
 
While you can turn off facial recognition at any time under your Facebook settings, the fact is that Facebook is not even asking permission to turn on the feature in the first place. Moreover, turning facial recognition off will not delete the biometric data that Facebook has already collected and stored.
 
What scares me is that this facial data can then be combined with location data, other biometric data and a friend list — providing an all-too-clear picture of each Facebook user. 
 
I understand where Facebook is coming from, and I don’t believe that it is utilizing facial recognition technology in a malicious way. I think the company truly believes that it is
creating a better user experience.
 
However, I see an enhanced user experience as one with more safety features and fewer privacy invasions. 
 
If Facebook will not permanently eliminate this feature, it should at least bring it to the explicit attention of each user. Facial recognition — and in effect, the storage of facial data — is something that should call for users’ acute awareness and absolute permission.