Facebook facial recognition should be opt in, not opt out

Facebook puts business ahead of privacy again: Sophos

Security vendor Sophos has slammed social networking giant Facebook again for its constantly changing privacy rules, this time because of the introduction of facial recognition.

The new feature means that as photo albums are uploaded to Facebook, the site will try to determine if any of the pictures look like the uploader's friends. If a photo that is determined to match a friend, the uploader is urged to tag it with a name.

In a blog post, Sophos' UK senior technology consultant, Graham Cluley, expressed concern and found the idea "creepy" that Facebook was now pushing friends to go ahead and tag users.

"Remember, Facebook does not give you any right to pre-approved tags. Instead the onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in — after the fact."

Sophos Asia Pacific head of technology, Paul Ducklin, told Computerworld that part of the problem was that the site does not notify users when it makes these changes.

"Do they expect you to review your privacy settings all the time? It's outrageous that they keep changing the [privacy] conditions. If you're on vacation and not using the Internet or happen to be in hospital than tough luck. For all you know that [facial recognition] option could be on the whole time."

Ducklin said it was time for Facebook to have some more social responsibility and to no longer put in terms and conditions that allow widespread sharing of information.

"You can imagine the arguments within Facebook. The security guys will be saying `We should be a bit cautious with this' and the business growth guys saying `Hey, how are we going to grow our business unless we have more clicks to sell information onto our customers?'."

Ducklin said it is time for Facebook to move to an opt-in policy. "If the facial recognition is that great, wouldn't everyone tell their buddies to turn it on?"

To turn off facial recognition, Sophos advises going into your Facebook account's privacy settings.

— Click on customise settings.

— Under things others share users should see an option titled suggest photos of me to friends. When photos look like me, suggest my name.

— Click on edit settings.

— If Facebook has enabled auto-suggestion of photo tags there will be an option says enabled.

— Change it to disabled and press OK.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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