Monday, June 13, 2011

Face Recognition and Privacy on Facebook; Are YOU in Control?

Face Detection on Facebook has been around since last year, but now there’s Face Recognition, NOT a new technology, by the way, that takes lack of privacy to another level. What’s the difference? Prompted tagging versus “instant” tagging. 

Facebook’s rationale is that it makes our lives easier. Did users really write in to Facebook and complain that manual tagging was too difficult or time consuming? Ha!

From what I’ve read in several articles, the tagging is instant in a sense that Facebook HAS that information stored somewhere, however, they will not be automatically tagging your photos. What they are doing is going through all photos that are on Facebook, not just the recent ones.

Is that scary? Yes, however, once this all rolls out in the next few weeks, your life will not be suddenly exposed. YOU have the choice to manually tag them.

Now, before we all get into a frenzy over this, I couldn’t help noticing that some of my Facebook friends who are upset about this have their profiles available for anyone on Facebook to see. If you are indeed concerned about privacy, DO hide your wall, at the very least! It’s easy.  Click on Account on the upper right of any Facebook page, then Privacy Settings, then choose how much you’re willing to share and to who. Do you want to share to Everybody, Friends of Friends, Friends Only, or Custom? This is where you can keep people out of your more personal info, such as family photos.

Okay. Feel better now that 500 million people aren’t able to see those embarrassing photos of that wild birthday party?

Here’s the good news: The media went to town with the Face Recognition announcement with a heavy slant towards the negative side. Another positive point: Would Facebook be that stupid to expose us all to the world? And yes, in the past, there have been lots of privacy issues with Facebook; however, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, it is a matter of education. YOU have control over your privacy in Facebook.

Which brings up another point. Facebook already has a LOT of information on you. It’s unlikely that they are suddenly going to go public with my birthdate (which I show to no one but hey, Facebook has it). It’s my choice whether or not YOU have that information. It would come from ME. But you’d have to ask me nicely!

Now, the big question is…how to protect yourself from Face Recognition? Ha ha…you KNEW there’d be a solution, right? Let me be the bearer of GREAT news…

Back at Account settings in the upper right, again, hey, it’s under Privacy settings. Down a ways on the page in the middle click on Customize Settings. In the section halfway down, Things Others Share click on Edit Settings to the right of Suggest Photos of me to Friends. Here you can enable or disable this feature.

Note that Facebook reminds us that WE have control (this is word for word what is stated there):
You're always in control of your tags on Facebook:
•    Only friends can tag you in photos
•    We'll notify you when a friend has tagged you
•    You can remove a friend's tag at any time
•    Tag suggestions are based only on photos you've allowed yourself to be tagged in

So, I hope your fears have now subsided and you’re breathing a big sigh of relief. Go ahead and continue to enjoy the social networking experience.
For more on privacy issues on Facebook, click here.

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