Facebook Sets off to Normalize Facial Recognition

Facebook is taking its facial recognition technology another step forward and plans to use it to figure out if anyone posts any pictures online that include you, whether we’re talking about classic posts or the upload of a profile pic.

According to an announcement made by the company, users will start getting alerted, even if the one who posts the picture doesn’t tag people. “We’re doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook,” the message reads.

This is a great feature on one hand, and a creeping one on the other. It has great uses, obviously, because you don’t want strangers posting pictures of you online, from a party, for instance, where you weren’t exactly in the best form. On the other hand, this emphasizes just how far Facebook facial recognition technology has come and the creep factor that comes with it.

The explanations given by Facebook, however, make sense. There have been countless cases of people impersonating others on Facebook and we’ve all heard of someone who’s had this happen to them. Given how many users are on Facebook every day, we’re only going to assume that the company gets dozens of such complaints every day.

Something that every user should know is that if you don’t want to, Facebook won’t apply this service for you. Well, sort of. What you need not do in order for Facebook to use its facial recognition software to snuff out any photo posts that feature you is to not allow the company to use facial recognition on your photos at all. Up until now, when posting a picture, Facebook would ask you who was who in a picture, for tagging pictures. The company will now expand this and ask permission to use facial recognition across its entire platform, not just your own account.

Despite the above-mentioned opportunity to opt-out of this feature, this new step confirms that privacy will no longer be a social norm. It all depends on the structure of the society, of course. Some 15 or 20 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine something like this in our everyday life. Now, the Facebook Generation looks at privacy like an unnecessary barrier that they have to bypass. People who are now in their 30s have a completely different view about privacy than 20 year-olds and most don’t understand why someone would upload their entire life online, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or another service. And we’re talking about a single generation here. Soon, however, facial recognition and other new tracking technologies will become the norm.

“People gave us feedback that they would find it easier to manage face recognition through a simple setting, so we’re pairing these tools with a single “on/off” control. If your tag suggestions setting is currently set to “none,” then your default face recognition setting will be set to “off” and will remain that way until you decide to change it,” the company’s blog post reads.

If you’ve resisted thus far in formally allowing Facebook to know exactly who you are in a group photo, you might want to give this a thought because in the future we might even see the company rolling out account recovery using facial recognition, which is a feature that seems to slowly be growing wings across the Internet.

Facial recognition technology is becoming more and more used not just by social media companies to help tag your photos, but also by law enforcement agencies. In a way, while it’s not something we may be completely comfortable with, it’s something we should start getting accustomed to because it’s clear that this is the direction in which things are going.

Even Facebook is trying to convince us of this. In a post from the same day, Rob Sherman, Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, recognizes that some people feel uneasy when they hear the words “face recognition,” conjuring dystopian scenes from science fiction. He concedes that the tool can be used for good purposes, like helping people securely unlock their mobile devices, but it can also be used in concerning ways, including by law enforcement.

For Facebook’s part, Sherman says they’ve been working on these new features for a while now and hope to fine-tune everything as time passes according to feedback from the users. Whether you trust the company or not, that’s up to you, but at the end of the day you have to weight in the pros and cons of this technology and see what you have to gain and what you have to lose.

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