Facebook's new facial recognition feature can find you in untagged photos
Anybody want to go back to MySpace? Facebook's been feeling kind of creepy lately. Last month we found out there are algorithms that label you "liberal" or "conservative," based on an analysis of your activity. And the website seems psychic with its ability to target users with relevant ads. Is Facebook listening to us through our phones? I just asked that question out loud, and a voice on my phone said, "Of course not." It sounded just like Mark Zuckerberg.
The social media website now has two billion users, and there have been growing complaints about privacy. While Facebook refuses to give us that damn "dislike" button, they have tried to address consumer concerns. It's great that they're adding new features to protect people, but some of their ideas have been controversial.
For example, recently they asked us to send nude photos. It seems crazy, but there was actually a good reason. Many users have been victims of "revenge porn" - when a nude photo of someone is posted without their permission, to shame them. Facebook said their feature would analyze your nude photo and create a "digital imprint," so other users are blocked from posting it. Still, though, do you really feel comfortable uploading a nude pic on Facebook? What if you hit on the wrong button and make it your profile picture? (And even worse, no one clicks "like"?)
Now the company is rolling out a brand new feature. The website already uses facial recognition software to suggest friends to tag when you upload photos. However, now they will let you know when people upload photos of you, even if you are not being tagged. It also alerts you if you show up on someone else's profile picture, so other users cannot steal your identity. "We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook," says Facebook director of applied machine learning, Joaquin Candela, who I guess I can't impersonate any more.
It sounds great, although people will still be able to impersonate you, thanks to Facebook's custom privacy settings. For example, I could create a custom audience that doesn't include you, steal your identity and Facebook message your all relatives telling them you're pregnant. And custom privacy settings aren't going anywhere.
"We always respect the privacy setting people select when posting a photo on Facebook (whether that’s friends, public or a custom audience)," wrote Candela. "So you won't receive a notification if you're not in the audience."
If all of this stuff creeps you out, there's some good news. The company is also rolling out an option to block facial recognition software entirely. To make this as annoying as possible, it is not the default option. You'll have to opt out, probably by clicking through a million tabs, but hey, at least it's there. If you already disabled tag suggestions, the new features are automatically turned off. And if you live in Canada or in Europe, you don't have to worry about any of this. These features won't be available due to strict privacy laws. But anything goes in America, apparently!
See you on MySpace! Remember to put me in your top eight.