Skip to: [ search ] [ menus ] [ content ] Select style [ Aqua ] [ Citrus ] [ Fire ] [ Orange ] [ show/hide more content ]

Facebook facial recognition investigated

George Jepsen, the Attorney General of Connecticut, has expressed “deep concerns” about Facebook‘s facial recognition feature for automatically tagging uploaded photos with the names of those in the photos as tag suggestions for verification by real people. The feature is provided as an “opt-out” feature, not an “opt-in” feature, the wrong “default” IMHO (“In My Humble Opinion”). Members can also un-tag themselves (Oops! Too late! :-) ) from a photo at any time. The photos of Facebook’s 500 million users are included in their database.

“Since last December, we’ve been gradually rolling out the feature and millions of people have used it to add hundreds of millions of tags,” Facebook said in a written statement. “This <sic; “these”> data, and the fact that we’ve had almost no user complaints, suggests people are enjoying the feature and are finding it useful.”

As one of my old enemies in graduate school once said, “Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.” :-)

Facebook allows users to CHOOSE to NOT be identified to others by toggling an option in the “privacy settings” of the account. The option is called “suggest photos of me to friends” within the “customize settings” page. Now, let’s be clear, the more-than-100-million photos submitted EACH DAY (according to a company statement) will STILL be analyzed by Facebook’s facial recognition software – you are only opting out of having those results VERIFIED by your “friends.” :-)

I have been thinking, but not writing at length, about facial recognition and “Tag Suggestions” (now available in most countries :-) ) in Facebook for quite some time, even before it was introduced in December. I wrote about facial recognition, at length, :-) on Independence Day (July 4) of last year. Facial recognition is ALSO used in current versions of Apple’s iPhoto and Google’s Picasa.

What Facebook, Apple, and Google have never explained adequately (to ME, anyway) is WHY the “tagging” of photos occurs AT ALL, and what use will be made of the tagged photographs, the WHO of the isssue. And no, I don’t believe that it is just to make customers (many of whom were likely unaware that the technology even EXISTED) happy…!

I wrote about about my OWN opinions concerning the “WHY” of the issue. My concerns are that the results of facial recognition will find their way BEYOND governments (which I believe will already HAVE them :-) ) to corporations for marketing or to “hostile” governments/groups for use in terrorism, since both tech companies and government agencies have been successfully “hacked” for quite some time.

This week, I “opted out” of having my tagged photos suggested to my friends. I know that Facebook (and I believe that my government) will have the machine-applied tags, anyway, BUT WHY SHOULD MY “FRIENDS” AND I HELP THEM OUT? :-) I have NEVER used iPhoto (sorry, all my friends at Apple, that is just not how I process photographs), and when a version of Google’s Picasa started to go through the photos on this MacBook Pro WITHOUT my asking it, I shut it off. (I also get annoyed by smaller things, like news videos that START by themselves on CNN pages. :-) ) No, I am obviously not a Luddite.

Google, for its part, has decided NOT to release an application that would allow someone to take a photo of someone’s face with a smartphone in order to find out who that person is. (Yes, such “apps” exist.) The announcement was made by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes on May 31 of this year. That product was supposed to be part of an app called Google Goggles, which is able to look at a photo taken by a phone and then translate text or recognize a building, advertisement, or painting! Facial recognition technology is being used to BLUR the faces of people accidentally caught “on camera” in Street View of Google Maps.

With facial-recognition technology, “an evil dictator could use that against you,” Schmidt said on Tuesday. “We’re so sensitive on the privacy issue now.”

Four privacy groups (the Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC], the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse) banded together last week to file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Facebook’s use of facial recognition. The groups asked the FTC to require Facebook to STOP using facial recognition technology without the explicit “OPT-IN” consent of its users. Although I have not finished reading the complaint, I know I will (I downloaded it) because it looks VERY interesting from an initial scan.

“In Facebook’s desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection — an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent,” Jepsen wrote in his letter.

Senators Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced legislation this week that would require the makers of mobile software and devices to obtain OPT-IN consent from users before tracking their LOCATIONS, as well.

Customers worldwide need to understand that their identified photos, physical locations at any time they are carrying a cell phone (or HAVE carried their cell phone), their phone conversations and data transmissions, as well as a “graph” of people with whom they associate and have associated, are all present in various databases. And that databases NEVER go away…! Some questions that remain are who has access to the data and how are the data being used.

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle® contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. All locations are accessible from here. Be a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

No Comments to “Facebook facial recognition investigated”

  (RSS feed for these comments)

InspectorWordpress has prevented 52153 attacks.
Get Adobe Flash player