FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 13, 2011
Facebook's new face-recognition ability goes too far, critics say
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A new Facebook feature makes some people want to click "dislike" or "undo." A tool called Tag Suggestions lets users identify friends automatically in photos without their permission. Facial recognition software can match people in newly uploaded images with other photos in which they're tagged (identified by name).
It's no surprise that the words "facial recognition" and "Facebook" cause unease when they appear together. "It spooks people that the program can figure out who they are," says Jim Tiller, vice president of security for BT Global Services, a British telecommunications firm. Creating what he calls a "digital fingerprint" of people also raises concerns about a new kind of cyber-stalking, Tiller adds. Across the Atlantic, a group of European Union data-protection regulators last week opened an inquiry to see if the new capability violates privacy rules. .
While users can click off the Tag Suggestions feature, Facebook quietly made it a default setting without asking who wanted it activated. The firm acknowledges a misstep. "We should have been more clear with people during the rollout process when this became available to them," says a statement issued late last week by the social networking giant, which says it has more than 500 million active users worldwide.
Facebook says: "Every day, people add more than 100 million tags to photos on Facebook. Tags make photos one of the most popular features on Facebook." -- Company blog
Blogger says: "It's a pretty common-sense feature and, examined coldly, really not very invasive and perhaps not even that useful." -- Ryan Singel, Wired.com
Tech consultant says: "It makes me uncomfortable . . . especially when they turn on features like this without even telling us. . . . They should allow people to opt into it." -- Graham Cluley, senior adviser at Sophos, a British Internet security firm
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