Facebook unveils ‘creepy’ facial recognition system that’s freaking people out


jasper hamill

Facebook unveils 'creepy' facial recognition system that's freaking people out
Could facial recognition help Facebook spy on its users? (Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook has unveiled a ‘creepy’ new facial recognition system which can work out when you appear in someone else’s photo.

The social network will now use facial recognition technology to tell people on the social network when others upload photos of them, as long as they agree to let it store a facial template in its database.

In a statement, Facebook said it was making the feature optional to allow people to protect their privacy, but admitted that some people would want to be notified of pictures they might not otherwise know about.

Under the new feature, people who have opted in will get a notification from Facebook if a photo of them has been uploaded.

Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, director of applied machine learning at Facebook, said the optional tool ‘people better manage their identity on Facebook using face recognition’.

Facebook unveils 'creepy' facial recognition system that's freaking people out
Users will be told when they appear in someone else’s photo (Image: Facebook)

He wrote: ‘Now if you’re in a photo and are part of the audience for that post, we’ll notify you, even if you haven’t been tagged.

‘You’re in control of your image on Facebook and can make choices such as whether to tag yourself, leave yourself untagged, or reach out to the person who posted the photo if you have concerns about it.

‘We always respect the privacy setting people select when posting a photo on Facebook (whether that’s friends, public or a custom audience) so you won’t receive a notification if you’re not in the audience.’

He added: ‘We’re doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook.’

Facebook unveils 'creepy' facial recognition system that's freaking people out
You will now be able to switch off facial recognition altogether (Photo: Facebook)

Facial recognition technology has been a part of Facebook since at least 2010 when the social network began offering suggestions for whom to tag in a photo. That feature also is optional.

Its new system works by creating a template of a person’s face by analyzing pixels from photos where the person is already tagged. It then compares newly uploaded images to the template.

Facebook deletes the template of anyone who then opts out, Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

The company plans to add an ‘on/off’ switch to allow users to control all Facebook features related to facial recognition,

Sherman said. ‘We thought it was important to have a really straightforward way of controlling facial recognition technology.’

Facebook has been harvesting personal data about you for years, even if you didn’t consent to it and even if the person who did hand over the data deliberately didn’t link it to you by name, but it really wants to make that seem less creepy than it sounds

— you heard it here first: tweting is bad (@alexhern) December 19, 2017

On Twitter, people described the technology as ‘creepy’.

Luther Lowe, VP of public policy at the Yelp, wrote: ‘Really in awe of Facebook PR’s ability to spin creepy tech with deeply disturbing implications.’

The system will not be coming to the UK immediately because of strict EU privacy laws, although it may roll out in the future.

More: UK

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