by Surabhi Nijhawan

Facebook will start using face recognition to inform users when someone uploads a picture of them. It is being done to help users ‘manage their identity’ said the company.

How will the new tools work?

  • Every Facebook user will get a notification as soon as their picture gets uploaded on the website.
  • Face recognition will now work with an on and off button, if your setting is ‘none’ then your facial recognition will be off. Of course, if your settings are ‘off’ then you won’t get an update of your photos getting uploaded on the social media website.
  • Users will be informed if someone uploads their picture as a profile picture. It has been done to avoid impersonation of users.
  • People with visual impairments who use screen readers will know who appears in the News Feed even if they are not tagged. Previously, Facebook had launched an automatic alt-text tool that describes photos to people with vision loss.

The new features will roll out in several places except for Canada and the EU where the company does not offer face recognition technology, read the company statement. The two regions also have strict privacy laws.

Privacy concerns

First, there are loopholes in this new feature as it makes users vulnerable to online harassment and bullying, as pointed out by The Verge. If someone you are not friends with or have mutual friends with could upload your photos and misuse them. Photos can still be morphed and the images could be picked up by Facebook and users can be tagged to them.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo notes that people in backgrounds could also get tagged. For example, if there is a photo of a user who is in the background who visited the Eifel Tower, Facebook through the face detection, will know if the person has visited Paris (creepy as hell).

Facebook argues that users can set the audience of their posts which will help them keep a control on their settings. However, the options for who can see or cannot see your posts are friends, friends of friends, custom or only me and do not include everyone.

Facebook has been using face recognition for a few years and has expanded it without adequately addressing the privacy concerns on how facial data of millions of users are put to use. The massive amount of data could be used to sell ads, for surveillance and of course, hacking of this data could have unimaginable consequences. The enormous amount of information Facebook has on its users is problematic, and with face ID it will get worse as the tech giant will be able to recognise your image from anywhere. It will also allow them to know people you meet and interact them, improving their ‘people you may know’ suggestions. Reports have confirmed that Facebook would be able to identify people, put names to their images, and how it can be used in future is not yet clear.