Facebook Facial Recogniton More Harm Than Good?



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photo credit: pshab

Amid much scrutiny and negativity, Facebook has announced that the much anticipated facial recognition feature will start rolling out for all users over the next few weeks. Just as quickly as it was announced, the blogosphere was buzzing with how we opt out of this feature. As typical with a new Facebook feature, this is an automatic opt-in and, as users, we are faced with opting out. As readers of this blog, you have heeded the warnings and have already opted out of photo tagging which is the basis for facial recognition.

Automatic Algorithmic Tagging

The technology behind facial recognition, according to Facebook’s Vice President of Product, Chris Cox in his conversation with Ben Parr back in December 2010, was built in house with some assistance from partners (which have not been disclosed). The automatic algorithmic tagging identifies people in photos and suggests that they be tagged by users. This is not that complicated if we think about it as we have our core group of friends and presumably we will be together and take photos for which we will be tagged in. So if there is another photo that has not been tagged, that photo would be part of the suggested tagging. While Facebook has high confidence in their algorithms/technology we know that nothing is foolproof and as we are unaware as to the depths as to what this facial recognition will be used for, we can only be cautious and highly consider opting out.

Facebook’s Who Is This

If you are an open networker on Facebook, are very curious or just wish to remain very public, you probably haven’t and will not opt out. Should that be the case, the question arises as to how does the suggested tagging work? Facebook, fills in the prompt of “Who is this” with suggestions as to who the people are.  Simply hit “save tags” and the photos are now tagged.

Future of Photo Tagging and Facial Recognition

Photo tagging is one of Facebook’s most popular features but we have to wonder if that will continue. Are heavy users of Facebook going to pay attention to this? Will they have heard about it if they were nose down in Facebook games and liking all day? Despite being picked up by major news stations and bloggers hitting the web in record time, we know that there are some that remain oblivious to this new default opt -in feature. The negativity that has surrounded this launch has Google sitting on their facial recognition technology, Google Goggles an app which looks at photos taken with a phone and then translate them into recognizable items, is waiting for the dust to clear and manage their launch in a manner that is more comfortable to users and devoid of the mistakes of Facebook.

Photo tagging is not really new technology and exists in places we never really think about. We recently were introduced in depth by Tom Martin in his Fox 5 interview about photo geotagging. Imagine taking a photo with your  iPhone, uploading to Facebook and it gets person tagged, you are now faced with not only the photo tagging with your name and it is also geotagged to pinpoint your location (of course there is a margin of error). This then raises the question what are they doing with this information? How is it being used in ways that we are unaware of?

How Else Is the Technology Being Used?

We are unsure really. We know that Facebook is becoming the new PI of sorts as it is being considered in Jury Selection and in some cases if insurance fraud. We are fearless when it comes to posting on Facebook. We never really think about when we post the photos and tag our friends. They are our friends, it is our profile and are conscious of trying to be as private as we can. The technology is so far ahead of us as by the time we find out about it, it has already been quietly tested and our privacy very possibly could have been compromised in testing. It does make you think about how far will technology take us in being able to identify us by facial recognition and also geotagging. We do not think about how our phones are pinging constantly to locate our whereabouts. This works so well in criminal cases but for those that are law abiding citizens how is our location being used without our knowledge?

Is the Facebook facial recognition doing more harm that good or is it not that big of a deal?