Though Facebook's (news, site) facial recognition feature has been around since December of last year, the move to make it opt-out instead of opt-in has ignited the sort of privacy uproar we've come to associate with the social network.
What's in a Face?
Here's how it works: When a photo is uploaded to Facebook, the platform now prompts users to tag friends that the facial recognition system recognizes.
Why So Serious?
As Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch puts it, "That’s it. We’re not talking about a sinister site-wide facial recognition feature that will let your boss find incriminating photos of you taken at a bachelor party. It just makes tagging less tedious."
And yet, the Internet seems to be falling over itself once again, crying about privacy this and privacy that.
"Unfortunately, once again, Facebook seems to be sharing personal information by default," wrote Graham of Sophos on the company blog. "Many people feel distinctly uncomfortable about a site like Facebook learning what they look like, and using that information without their permission."
(Cluley also wrote a highly circulated open letter to Facebook back in April, calling for the company to go to a "privacy by default" doctrine as opposed to the privacy via opt-out policy.)
Another complaint from Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, goes like this: "Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people’s prior consent and it can’t be activated by default. [Automatic tagging] can bear a lot of risks for users."
And while it's true that Facebook does not allow you to approve a tag before it shows up in your ‘Tagged Photos’ album, this is how the platform has always worked. If it doesn't sit well with you, you can always hide tagged photos from other users using the site’s granulated privacy options.
This isn't a new issue, and it's certainly not nearly as creepy as it's being played out to be, but if you're uncomfortable about it you can go into your privacy settings and change them yourself. Click "Privacy settings" --> "Customize settings" --> "Things others share" --> "Suggest photos of me to friends" --> "Edit settings" and disable.