What’s Wrong With This Facebook Picture?

Discussion
Jul 28, 2011
George Anderson

Most people today will tell you that they are willing to permit websites access to personal information to get more relevant offers and a more meaningful experience. It’s widely expected by consumers that nothing will happen without their permission. You would think that the internet savvy management at Facebook would know that, which makes the company’s approach to its facial recognition technology all the more perplexing.

Rather than having members opt-in, Facebook requires them to opt-out of the technology that matches photos on the site to facial recognition profiles. Once a person has been tagged in a photo, others adding other photos with that same person will receive a prompt with his or her name.

Facebook has developed a video to show members how to turn off its facial recognition program. The move was prompted by questions by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen who had contacted Facebook over privacy concerns.

While Mr. Jepsen seems happy with the opt-out video, we continue to wonder why Facebook doesn’t turn off the technology and simply ask members if they want it?

A PCWorld article back in June, Why Facebook’s Facial Recognition is Creepy, also questioned why it would require members to opt-out instead of in. The piece pointed out that Facebook has 600 million members who have uploaded over 90 billion photos.

The article goes a little Orwellian: "Right now Facebook is using this technology to help people tag photos. But once they have an accurate facial recognition database of several hundred million people? Hmm."

Discussion Questions: Do you find anything troubling about Facebook’s opt-out requirement for its facial recognition technology? Do you expect Facebook to use the technology for advertising or e-commerce targeting purposes?

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17 Comments on "What’s Wrong With This Facebook Picture?"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Actually, Google+ is following in Facebook’s footsteps. I hadn’t Googled myself in a couple of weeks and when I did (not a vanity thing…I actually had a reason) I discovered that the first thing to come up was my Google+ account. There’s a setting buried in there that you have to shut off or else this is the default.

Of course, then I tried Bing and discovered that it had grabbed my Facebook login info, and the first thing on THAT page was my Facebook account with the words “That’s You!” under it. When I Bing’d my partner Nikki, Facebook came up first and it said, “She’s your friend!”

Hard to figure out who to root for, huh?

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 9 months ago

Although I don’t plan to opt out at this point, I do believe the default should be to require people to opt in. A video on how to opt out is not enough.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
9 years 9 months ago

People need to remain vigilant as companies (like Google and Facebook) are moving quickly with new features that collect, analyze and use available digital information. The simple reality is that the more information that is known/stored about you digitally, the more chance it will be used for malicious or simply unwanted purposes.

Expect lots of innovation in managing online privacy, digital footprints, and digital profiles in the coming years. This is going to go way beyond “credit monitoring” type services we see today.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

The short answer is yes. I found it troubling and once I realized I could opt out, I did. I also advocated that all my friends and family do the same. I think that often those who discover they can do something believe they and everyone else should. This is definitely a case where the answer is, they shouldn’t. I realize that my face and name are linked in a number of places on the web but I chose to do that. I didn’t choose to have software automatically do it everywhere on a site.

I have found it interesting that Facebook now uses facial recognition as part of how you have to verify who you are when you sign in from a different computer. They provide a number of photos and you have a multiple choice of who the people are. Not only does that mean they know who is in the photo, but who else you might recognize. Definitely creepy.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Facebook has demonstrated time and time again that it will push the boundaries of personal privacy. Sometimes they get slapped and retreat, other times their standards become the norm. This is not a haphazard effort. It’s well thought out and executed.

Anyone who thinks that there is privacy on the web is mistaken. If you don’t want everyone to see what is going on in your life, you need to vigilantly protect your privacy and self-police what you post, because what you post, no matter how private you think it is, is public forever.

Rick Moss
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Similarly, I got a creepy feeling from an over-personalized Godaddy email the other day. They offered me 20% off a domain name I had been researching via their site a few days prior.

Often, when people are looking up a domain name to see if it’s available for purchase, they want to keep it under wraps. Demonstrating to me that they’re keeping tabs on all the domain names I’m considering suggests all sorts of nefarious possibilities. Would they try to sell it to a competitor? Would they grab it themselves and try to resell it to me at an inflated price?

The point is, many marketers will find themselves with personal information that they’ve acquired legitimately. This gives them profound responsibilities. They have no idea what consequences revealing that information to the public might have. Privacy statements should be written to give users confidence and the marketers should stick to them based on sound ethical principles.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

It takes so much time keeping up with Facebook’s invasion of user privacy that it’s baffling why anyone would sign up for yet another social network, including Google+. These networks just don’t care what users think, and advertisers should be sensitive to that.

Liz Crawford
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

This isn’t the first time Facebook has violated users’ trust. Remember Beacon? That was when we glimpsed their management philosophy: control uber alles. This is more of the same.

While there are many interesting benefits from social networking to both consumers and companies, Facebook has shown its true colors more than once. And Facebook is looking out for Facebook. Let’s see what happens with Google+ circles … but until then, I grant very limited access. Caveat Adaptor.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
9 years 9 months ago

Zuckerberg has gone on the record saying that privacy is over. That’s right, the CEO of the world’s largest social network does not believe in privacy. Facebook reflects that. I find it amusing that some people would actually be surprised when Facebook infringes on their privacy. Just as shoppers vote with the wallet, netizens can vote with their online activity. If you don’t like what such and such social network is doing, leave (and tweet/blog about it).

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
9 years 9 months ago
Personally, I think there is a great opportunity for a whole new business model. With the evolution of site building tools such as WordPress and BuddyPress making it possible for individuals to create their own blogs and social networks, the need for sites like Facebook will disappear. Facebook is built on what economists call the “network effect”. Facebook becomes more valuable based on the number of people who join. But as Facebook becomes more widespread, it becomes more unwieldy. Google recognized this and emphasized its features that allow categorizing people into various groups such as immediate family, relatives, friends, work colleagues, etc. But Google still uses the information you provide to give advertisers detailed (if not personally identifiable) information about you. The ultimate answer to all this (assuming that something needs be fixed) is to change the business model. Instead of a business model based on income from advertisers, develop a business model based on fees. Under this scenario, searching for your high school sweetheart would be like paying directory assistance to look up a… Read more »
Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

This brings to mind Scott McNealy’s (Sun Microsystems) observation that, “You have no privacy, get over it.” Part of the developing reason for this is the growing ubiquity of cameras, including video. Are there any retailers who think you can’t take pictures in their stores? ..with a high percentage of shoppers carrying cameras with them now? Is it OK to remember what you see, but don’t make a record of it?

Processing all the photos in the world and linking them is what this is about, and we have only scratched the surface. If you want privacy, move to a remote cave and unplug from all electrical/electronic contacts. Oh, right, your brain emits electronic waves.

Seriously, Scott McNealy was simply telling the truth in advance. And government and rules may be of little avail, at least in their present manifestations, in protecting your privacy. “God” is watching!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 9 months ago

Once your face is in a database, how do you get out? This struck me recently when I saw a TV report on facial recognition cameras now coming into use by thousands of law enforcement agencies along with the TSA screeners in airports. If they routinely snap your picture to see if it matches any of the bad guys in their database and there’s no match, aren’t you now in their database? So, the second time your picture is snapped and compared before getting on a plane, it can recognize your first innocent photo already in the database and create a delay while the screeners determine if you’re on a watch list of some type. Plus, it’s just one more way to record your movements.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

My expectations are that Facebook will make it easy to join, difficult to leave, and will attempt to leverage personal information for its corporate profit gain. And I think it is important for users of FB to understand its motivations and adjust usage and behavior accordingly. If you place a photo on Facebook, you should have the expectation that it will be used according to their rules, including facial recognition. So, tend to your profile and the content you provide carefully.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 9 months ago

My view is that opt-out should be the default and customers should choose the features they want. We should assume that personal data and information are private unless you choose to make them public and ensure that individual needs and wants are respected.

The challenge Facebook has — to make money from individual and network data — shouldn’t need to clash with respecting peoples’ choices. If they fail to solve this, their popularity will dwindle, especially as alternative options become more viable.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 9 months ago

Opt-in is the best privacy protection. Facebook should know better.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
9 years 9 months ago

Yes. It is a combination of excitement and terror as the industry progresses. I do believe Facebook will expand their targeting purposes.

Cathy Briant
Guest
Cathy Briant
9 years 9 months ago

I find it interesting that the service is not being made available to users in Canada…of course, that’s how Facebook has worded it. The truth is, Canada’s privacy commission (that may not be the official name) has pushed back on earlier FB privacy offenses and FB may have just decided that it wasn’t worth facing another inquiry.

I personally like Facebook, but its cavalier attitude towards personal privacy is always disturbing. Granted, I never disclose anything there I wouldn’t share in person, and I’ve got my (known) privacy settings shut down to friends only, but I am constantly cautioning friends who take it for granted.

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