Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Facebook - Trouble with Faces?

Some of the oldest and largest public interest/advocacy  groups concerned about online privacy have asked the Federal Trade Commission to force Facebook to suspend operation of a new feature that uses facial recognition software to identify people appearing in other people's photos.  The complaint argues that the automatic tagging system amounts to an automated online identification system that largely occurs outside of individual's knowledge or consent; and as such exposes individuals to unknown risks.  The complaint calls for Facebook to obtain "opt-in" consent before sharing information about them in new ways.
Facebook has replied that it's previously announced its automatic tagging feature as it's become available in countries.  They say that users can "opt-out" - that if you become concerned about particular applications of automatic tagging, you can reconfigure your privacy settings to not automatically tag your image (if you can figure out how).  They also claim that if other users 'tag" you in their photos, you can ask for your name to be removed after the fact.  [Opt-in permissions require specific consent be obtained prior to the collection and/or use of information, while opt-out permissions only stop the use or sharing of the information collected after notification that you've opted out].  Those backing the complaint argue that Facebook still hasn't provided adequate information about the range and extent of personal information that it collects on its users, and that the opt-out option fails to prevent continued collection of the biometric data, or require the deletion of data already collected.  They say that Facebook has left open the potential for the service to market or share the data with advertisers, app developers, and the government without users' permission.  Name searches could reveal information about you that you had no idea was there.

So the fundamental lesson about the Internet needs to be expanded.  No longer do you need to realize that once you post things on the Internet, it's always out there somewhere, so be careful as to what you post.  Now, you may also want to be careful about what your friends post - those potentially embarrassing photos your friends posted from last Spring Break may show up at a later job interview.

Source: "Privacy Groups File FTC Complaint About Face Recognition", Online Media Daily

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