ThumbnailFacebook is always adding new features to help make things easier for users, yet they never seem to get the privacy issue right. The newest of these features is Facebook Facial Recognition, a tool that aims to make it easier for you to identify and tag your friends in the photos that you upload. Unfortunately, many users are not very happy with this feature and some are even calling it “creepy.”

Tagging has always been a huge issue on Facebook. Unless you take the time to customize your privacy settings, you can and probably will get tagged all over the place without warning. As it is now, your friends can tag you in photos and videos, plus they can add you to groups all without your permission.

Maybe it wouldn’t  be so bad if the items that you’re tagged in didn’t show up on your wall for all to see, but they do. Imagine if someone tags you in an inappropriate photo or image and then your parent, boss, teacher or significant other sees it? It could really cause a lot of issues. I’ve seen it happen before and I’m sure you have too.

So what is this new feature all about and what are the concerns?

What is Facebook Facial Recognition?

It’s a new photo tagging tool on Facebook called “Tag Suggestions,” which is now available in most countries. The way it works is that when you upload new photos to your Facebook profile, it will scan those photos with facial recognition software. This software is used to match new photos to others that have already been tagged and it will also suggest people that you may want to tag.

Tag Your Friends

The Good

Facebook Facial Recognition makes tagging photos much easier. The Facebook Blog says that many users think that tagging is a chore; so of course Facebook came up with a clever way to take care of this issue. I will admit that tagging can definitely be a pain, especially if you have a lot of people or a large number of photos to tag.

Group Tagging:

This is where the new “Group Tagging” feature comes into play. Similar photos are grouped together and whenever possible Facebook will suggest the name(s) of the friend(s) in the photos. You can then tag them in all of the photos at once. This really is a great time saver. For example, instead of having to tag 20 photos individually, you can click “Save” to have all of those photos tagged at once.

The Bad

Unfortunately, Facebook has decided to enable this feature by default. Since many people do not know about this feature, they do not know that they need to disable it. Besides that, many of the people who do know about a new feature do not know how to disable it. While it’s not super hard to find in the “Privacy Settings”, it’s not a piece of cake either.

The new features also makes a lot of users uncomfortable. It’s unsettling knowing that a piece of software knows who you are and what you look like from a single scan. Even worse, how might Facebook use this time of data in the future? Right now, no one knows.

Cyberstalking:

As ABC News mentions, Facebook Facial Recognition could even encourage a new kind of cyberstalking. They warn, “the concept of identifying someone by their face allows you to increase the granularity information you can use… as a stalker or an attacker.” Cyberstalking is a huge problem as it is, so we really don’t need yet another way to be harassed on the web.

No Pre-Approval

One of the biggest issues with the new feature is that there is no way to pre-approve images before publishing. You can of course totally disable it, but if you want to keep it enabled so that your friends can easily tag you, it puts an end to your privacy. You will get a notice about the tag and you can easily un-tag yourself if you choose, but by then the damage may have already been done. The person that you didn’t want to see that photo (like your boss, parent or significant other) may have already seen it by then.

So as you can see, this automatic tagging definitely causes a lot more harm than good. So let’s quickly go through the steps to disable it so that these issues don’t happen to you (unless you’re comfortable with leaving it enabled).

How to Disable Facebook Facial Recognition

  1. Navigate to “Account” in the upper right corner of Facebook and choose “Privacy Settings.”
  2. Click on “Customize Settings.”Customize Settings
  3. Scroll down to where it says “Suggest photos of me to friends” and click on “Edit Settings.”
  4. You’ll see a popup window titled “Photos: Suggest Tags” and you can then select disabled from the drop down menu.Disable in Photos Suggest Tags
  5. Click “Okay” and you’re done.

Conclusion:

Facebook currently claims to have over 700+ million users. Every new feature or update affects a huge number of people, especially their private information which they so willing share with the website. Being the largest social network today, they should be more sensitive to peoples need of privacy. It probably would have been smarter for Facebook to start out with this feature disabled by default instead of enabled, and notify people to enable it if they want.

So what do you think? Is this feature really needed or is it something that you’d be better of without? Feel free to give us your opinions in the comments.