Facebook knows your face. Is that a problem?(Read article summary)
Facebook has introduced a new tag suggestion functionality that uses face-recognition software. Queue Facebook privacy firestorm.
Facebook will soon unveil a new face-recognition functionality, reps for the social network have announced. The software – which should hit Facebook by next week – crawls recently-added photos and rapidly coughs up a series of suggested tags, based on its analysis of the data. Facebook says the feature should make it easier for users to tag large numbers of pictures.
"Because photos are such an important part of Facebook, we want to be sure you know exactly how tag suggestions work: When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software – similar to that found in many photo editing tools – to match your new photos to other photos you're tagged in," Facebook engineer Justin Mitchell writes today. "We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos."
Needless to say, the face-recognition announcement has been met with a good deal of blowback. Facebook has been compared to Big Brother and to Skynet, the computer overlord from the Terminator series. "This is yet another way Facebook is mining data and information from all of us," one user wrote today in the comments section of the Facebook blog. "It may just be the final nail in the coffin in my decision to delete my account."
Of course, not everyone thinks the face recognition software is worthy of a grade-A meltdown. Over at Fortune magazine, JP Mangalindan acknowledges that "having a set of algorithms dredge up your name and offer it for tagging purposes sounds, at least on first impression, somewhat fishy." And yet he points out that the functionality is not mandatory – users can opt-out if they please.
Moreover, the suggested tags "shouldn't come as a surprise, particularly given other products like say, iPhoto '09 or Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery already use similar facial recognition technologies," Mangalindan writes. "And besides, how is Tag Suggestions more intrusive than the rest of the information – interests, likes, statuses, political affiliations, sexual preferences – that is all catalogued and searchable from within the network?"
Over to you. Does the tag suggestions functionality creep you out? Or is it just part and parcel of the Facebook experience?