Facebook facial recognition: New technology, old problem
- 10 June, 2011 08:31
Facebook, oh Facebook. Will you ever learn?
In case you haven't heard by now, the social network from The Social Network is back in the spotlight for playing around with its users' privacy. Yeah -- again.
This latest Zuck-up, if you'll pardon my French, revolves around facial recognition in Facebook photos. A security firm noticed that Facebook had started using its voodoo machines (that's the technical term) to scan faces in photos and try to recognize other users. After uploading a picture, Facebook looks at all the shining smiles and searches for matches in its slightly creepy database of faces. If it sees someone who it thinks is one of your friends, it alerts you and asks if you want to "tag" them in the photo.
Heebie-jeebies aside, the real problem, as my PCWorld cohort Ed Oswald observed, is that Facebook started including users in this service without explicitly telling them -- and, equally important, without letting them decide whether they were interested in opting in. By default, everyone's part of the program; you have to take the initiative in order to opt out.
Consider, too, that as part of the program, your face is stored in some sort of centralized repository that can be accessed and matched at a second's notice. In practicality, is that going to be a real hazard? Probably not. But in principle, it's certainly a little disturbing.
To be clear, Facebook did announce the partial launch of its facial recognition program in a blog last December. (That launch came with its own set of slightly less public privacy problems.) What's new now is that Facebook has started rolling out the feature to more users in more countries -- without first giving them a heads-up. And, again, the users are all opted in by default.
Facebook has since apologized for the flub and -- to use an oddly appropriate term -- tried to save face. But how many times can Zuck and co. act first and then clean up the mess later? It's getting hard to keep track of all the times it's happened:
• In early 2009, Facebook changed its terms of service without letting anyone know. Following a massive uproar and federal complaint, the social network did an about-face and let its users vote on how to best undo the damage.
• Last April, Facebook introduced an "Open Graph" program that shared your info with external sites by default. Sure, you could disable it, but only if you took the time to figure out how and then go through a series of involved steps.
The list goes on, but you get the point: Facebook has done this kind of thing far too many times. The game of after-the-fact apologizing is really getting old.
So come on, Zuck: What the Winklevoss are you thinking? This isn't a college dorm project any more; it's a massive service that people around the world trust with their personal data. Start making your users' interests a priority already. Enough is enough.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.
- The Social Network: Facebook 'Hit Job' or Masterpiece? : PCWorld
- Facebook on Face Recognition: Sorry, We Screwed Up! : PCWorld
- Facebook changes privacy settings for millions of users – facial recognition is enabled : Naked Security
- Why Facebook's Facial Recognition is Creepy : PCWorld
- Facebook Facial Recognition: Security Firm Issues Alert : PCWorld
- Facebook Photo Tagging: A Privacy Guide : PCWorld
- Incompatible Browser : Facebook
- Facebook Photos: Opt-Out or Tag You're It : PCWorld
- Facebook: We Fumbled Face Recognition Roll-Out -- InformationWeek
- Facebook Privacy Change Sparks Federal Complaint : PCWorld
- Facebook's Privacy Flap: What Really Went Down, and What's Next : PCWorld
- Facebook's Terms and the Future: Privacy Advocates Weigh In : PCWorld
- Facebook Simplifies Privacy Options : PCWorld Business Center
- Facebook Privacy Changes: The Good and the Bad : PCWorld
- Facebook Wants the Web's Default to Be Social : PCWorld Business Center
- Facebook's Social Web: How to Protect Your Privacy : PCWorld
- Facebook Privacy: Secrets Unveiled : PCWorld
- Incompatible Browser : Facebook
Cloud debate now about speed and sophistication
Yahoo Mail still down for some users, after an attempted fix
Queensland government to provide 200 services online by 2015
CIOs need to get their house in order, CFO panel says
Is Data Complexity Blinding Your IT Decision-Making?
Benefits of Web Self-Service
According to Forrester, 72 per cent of customers prefer using a company’s website to answer their questions. But only 52.4 per cent actually find the information they need online. Customers want to solve their issues quickly and easily, and providing the right solutions means greater customer retention and revenue streams - but this is sometimes not the case. Download to find out more.
Is your data centre growing too complex for your backup?
Backing up data today is growing more complex - and in an era of virtualisation, big data and cloud deployments, it can be difficult to maintain control over your data, resulting in loss and downtime. This hour-long webcast features expert commentary on navigating the complexity of backing up a heavily virtualised infrastructure; simplifying your backup software and hardware ecosystem; reducing the cost of backing up your organisation’s data, and modernising your backup infrastructure with integration. The presentations will conclude with an interactive Q&A session.
Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer’s Guide
Virtualization affords organizations multiple opportunities to reduce power, optimize hardware utilization, improve application availability and ultimately drive down costs. In light of its benefits, it is no surprise that virtualization penetration has surpassed 50% of all server workloads and continues to grow. In this guide, we evaluate prominent virtual server backup software solutions and identify their strengths and weaknesses.