by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
face recognition, privacy

Is Facebook's Facial Recognition That Scary?

from the how-so? dept

There has been some concern here and there about Facebook's face recognition technology, though I will admit that I still don't see it as being that concerning. It only works on people who you're already listed as being "friends" with -- not just randomly identifying people in crowds or anything. As such, it seems more like a handy tool for better providing info in images. Some have raised issues about Facebook opening it up beyond just friends, or potentially exposing ID info in photos to others, like advertisers. And while Facebook has a reputation for changing its privacy terms in ways that freak people out -- and which possibly expose info that people originally thought was private -- I'm still missing why the face recognition is so problematic. It's no different than what a user would/could do right now -- identifying an individual in a photo and tagging them. If facial recognition is a concern, why isn't that (human) action just as concerning? Both involve connecting an image to a name.

Perhaps I'm missing something -- and I fully expect readers here to clarify exactly what it is in the comments.

It certainly seems like governments around the globe also think that there are problems with the facial recognition -- and they may act on it. Here in the US, Senator Franken quizzed a Facebook exec on this issue. He properly noted that Facebook doesn't do a particularly good job disclosing that the facial recognition technology is there -- and that's something that could be improved. But is that a legal violation?

The bigger issue, though, may be over in Europe where there are a variety of investigations of the technology going on -- with Ireland and Norway leading the way and expressing concerns. Europe, of course, takes privacy rights against companies to a different level than we do in the US, though that sometimes leads to wacky, nonsensical outcomes, like German residents being able to blur their houses on Google Street View. But of course, the fact that anyone driving down the street can see what's there is ignored. It feels somewhat similar with facial recognition. If you're in a picture, you're in a picture. A human can identify you. Is there a major difference if a computer can also identify you?

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2012 @ 8:26am

    It's a pretty easy thing to understand Mike. Apparently you don't deal with people away from the computer much (AFK for you).

    Basically, I can have a friend take a bunch of pictures at a party, whatever, and say "Don't tag me, I don't want anyone to find this picture of me with the giant bong". They respect that, and as a result,, searches don't turn it up, and there is no harm, no foul. Remember, the other people who were at the party (and likely to see the pictures online as friends) already know I had the bong. No big deal. But I don't want my future investors to see it.

    Now, facial recognition would make it that Facebook would tag me anyway. I can't argue with the machine.

    It's called dealing with real people, not machines. You should try it sometimes!

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