Facebook is notifying more users of its facial recognition features as it faces increased scrutiny over how the technology may infringe upon their privacy.
Many users who logged onto Facebook on Tuesday reported seeing a message from the firm on their News Feed outlining several new facial recognition features.
Facebook now notifies users when someone uploads a picture of them that they haven’t been tagged in, among other features.
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Facebook notified some users on their News Feeds of the firm’s new facial recognition technology. The features tell users when a photo of them has been uploaded to Facebook that they haven’t been tagged in yet and if a stranger uses a photo of them as their profile picture
The features were first announced last December, but Facebook has been gradually rolling them out over the past several months.
Now, the firm is giving users some greater clarity into what its facial recognition features do and, most importantly, the fact that they can opt-out of the system entirely, should they want to.
It may not be a coincidence that Facebook is being more transparent, either.
Just yesterday, a federal judge denied Facebook’s attempt to dismiss a class-action lawsuit by users in Illinois who say the firm violated their privacy by collecting and storing biometric data without their consent.
Pictured is the post being sent out to some Facebook users on Tuesday. The features were first announced last year, but the firm has been gradually rolling them out over the past few months
Illinois, Texas and Washington are bound by laws that govern the use of biometric data.
Class-action lawsuits have also been filed against Google, Snapchat and Shutterfly in Illinois over their biometric data collection.
A source who works at Facebook told Fast Company that the news surrounding the lawsuit and the firm’s announcement on Tuesday weren’t related.
Facebook announced last year that its facial recognition tech would be used to tell people when a photo of them is uploaded to the site that they haven’t been tagged in yet
But if the lawsuit against Facebook is successful, it may force the social media giant to change how it gathers biometric data and the ways in which it’s used.
Facebook uses sophisticated systems equipped with artificial intelligence to build a user’s ‘face print.’
Face prints are what Facebook uses to automatically tag a user in a photo.
Using machine learning, the firm scans a photo that’s uploaded to Facebook to detect and label any faces that are in the picture.
From there, the firm creates a user’s face print based on measurements of the person’s facial features, such as their nose bridge, eyelids and the width of their lips, according to Gizmodo.
Last December, Facebook announced that this technology would be expanded to enable new features.
The firm said it would start to notify users when someone uploads a photo of them they haven’t been tagged in, even if you’re not friends with the person who uploaded the photo.
However, the uploader has to have their privacy settings set to public in order for the person to be notified.
Facebook also said it will alert users if their face is included in a profile picture, as a way to protect users from strangers who may use their photo.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU OPT-IN TO FACEBOOK’S FACIAL RECOGNITION FEATURES?
Facebook notified some users on Tuesday that they could choose to not be a part of the firm’s facial recognition features
For any user who opts in to using the new feature, Facebook will create what it calls a templated of a person’s face by analyzing pixels from photos where the person is already tagged.
It will then compare newly uploaded images to the template.
Under the new feature, people who opt in will get a notification from Facebook if a photo of them has been uploaded.
But this only works if the person has access to the photo, meaning they would need to be on the uploader’s friends list.
If you’re in a photo and are part of the audience for that post, Facebook will notify users even if they haven’t been tagged. Otherwise the user will not receive a notification.
The update also meant users with visual impairments can hear aloud who’s tagged in photos.
Interestingly, some users said on Tuesday that they had been automatically opted into the facial recognition feature, while others said Facebook told them the feature was turned off.
Some users tweeted that they refused to opt-in to the facial recognition features.
do I want facebook to use facial recognition software to identify me in photos?
That would be a no. FFS. You dystopian fucks.
— Noah Berlatsky (@nberlat) February 26, 2018
Others noted that the features raise some pretty serious privacy concerns.
Journalist Avi Asher-Schapiro tweeted that Facebook’s face prints are akin to fingerprints.
‘Facebook’s announcement today that it was ‘adding more ways to use facial recognition’ is a opportunity to remind everyone that Facebook is using your photos to build a sprawling database of face-prints, a biometric marker that’s unique to you, & similar to DNA or fingerprints,’ Asher-Schapiro wrote.
The judge who ruled Facebook has to face the class-action lawsuit in Illinois also expressed concern about how the features relate to user privacy.
‘When an online service simply disregards the Illinois procedures, as Facebook is alleged to have done, the right of the individual to maintain her biometric privacy vanishes into thin air,’ U.S. District Judge James Donato wrote in his decision letter.
‘The precise harm the Illinois legislature sought to prevent is then realized,’ he added.