In late 2017, Facebook launched a feature called “tag suggestions”, which used facial recognition to detect faces among users’ friends. It would then use the technology to suggest tags to the user that they could add to the photo.
This was rolled out among many users. However, Facebook has announced that it will be turning this setting off by default. All new users to Facebook will have this feature automatically disabled. It will only be activated if they decide they want to turn it on manually.
The biggest issue, and the reason for the withdrawal of this feature is privacy concerns. Facebook is facing ongoing criticism over the privacy of data for its users, and the company said it was discontinuing the feature for this reason, unless the user opted in.
Trust in the security and privacy of Facebook is at an all time low. Following allegations that Cambridge Analytica obtained the data of up to 87 million users, Facebook was recently issued a $5 billion fine for breaching its customers’ privacy.
This also follows a 2015 privacy lawsuit in Illinois where users accused the website of breaching the Biometric Information Privacy Act and retaining the biometric data of millions of users without their consent.
Srinivas Narayanan, head of applied research at Facebook’s AI division said: “Starting today, people who newly join Facebook or who previously had the tag suggestions setting will have the face recognition setting and will receive information about how it works.”
“The tag suggestions setting, which only controls whether we can suggest that your friends tag you in photos or videos using face recognition will no longer be available. If you do not currently have the face recognition setting and do nothing, we will not use face recognition to recognize you or suggest tags”
“People will still be able to manually tag friends, but we won’t suggest you to be tagged if you do not have face recognition turned on. If you already have the face recognition setting, you won’t receive a notice.”