Facebook Offers Users Facial Recognition Opt Out

Facebook has made a number of changes to the use of facial recognition technology on its platform.

The social network announced that it was opening up its face recognition tech to all users, but there is an option for them to opt-out.

Facebook had tried to offer a facial recognition capability to tag friends’ images automatically on the social network as far back as 2010, despite concerns about the use of the technology at the time. But it was forced to suspend it in Europe for a number of years over privacy concerns.

Face recognition

The social network explained that in December 2017 it offered a setting for some people called Face recognition. The firm said that users now can switch this setting on or off.

“Facebook has always given you control over whether we use face recognition technology to recognize you in photos,” said the social network. “This setting was previously called tag suggestions because Facebook only used face recognition technology to automatically suggest tags of your friends in photos.

Additionally, the tag suggestions setting, which only controls whether Facebook can suggest that friends tag a person in photos or videos using face recognition, will no longer be available.

It seems that users who opt in to the new Face recognition setting will still have tag suggestions automatically generated about them.

Privacy future

Facebook is dressing this development as part of its ongoing privacy focus, after CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a “vision” for the future of social media that he said would hinge on privacy.

The firm meanwhile said it continues to engage with privacy experts, academics, regulators and its users on face recognition and its control options.

Last month Facebook lost an attempt to halt legal action after it lost a case in a federal appeals court.

The social networking giant had been sued back in 2015 when Illinois users accused Facebook of violating that state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act in collecting biometric data.

The federal appeals rejected Facebook’s effort to undo a class action lawsuit that claimed it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent.

The case centered on Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature, which allows users to recognize their Facebook friends from previously uploaded photos.

That ruling potentially exposes the social networking giant to millions of dollars in potential damages to the Illinois users who brought the case, but it is reported that Facebook intends to appeal.

It is also worth noting that Facebook suspended facial recognition for European users eight years ago after the practice was deemed illegal, because it stored biometric data without users’ explicit consent.

Quiz: Think you know all about Facebook?

Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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