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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Facebook's New Face Recognition Raises Privacy Concerns Around the World

How to get around Facebook's new face recognition

    By Claire Connelly
    From: news.com.au
    June 08, 2011


  • New face recognition is on by default 

  • You can turn it off, or have some fun 

  • FACEBOOK wants to know what you look like, and it wants you to like it. The social networking website has been rolling out a facial recognition feature called Tag Suggestions since late last year.
    Now the feature has become available for Australian users, and by default, it's turned on.
    Tag Suggestions is designed to make it easier for you to tag photos of friends. When you upload a photo, the site will make suggestions based on who it thinks appears in the picture.
    Professor Brian Lovell of the University of Queensland said Tag Suggestions posed serious privacy risks for some users.
    "The software might actually be labelling people who don’t want to have their faces known," Dr Lovell told news.com.au.
    "You put these things up in innocent way and they can be used against you."
    Dr Lovell, who heads the university's Advanced Surveillance team, said users with assumed or suppressed identities were particularly at risk.
    "If your photo was taken before you enter witness protection, it's very hard to remove those photos," he said.
    Many Facebook users have complained on the site that the feature was turned on without their consent.
    "Change settings and ask questions later, hey! Nice one," said one user.
    "Once again, the user has to react, after the fact. Once again, not opt-in, as should be, but opt-out," said another.
    Tag Suggestions can be turned off by customising your privacy settings under the "Things others share" heading.
    However Dr Lovell said there may be another, more novel way to get around the feature — by taking bad photos.
    "It's not a matter of does it work, or does it fail, it's about just how well it works," he said.
    Given that many Facebook users uploaded photos taken on their mobile phone, Dr Lovell said the software may not work as well as it was meant to.
    "The best recognition photos come from 10 megapixel photos," he said.
    "iPhones have a 5 megapixel camera."
    And if you wanted to make Tag Suggestions work even harder, you could upload photos taken at night or in low light.
    "Most people socialise at night, they go to clubs and restaurants and take photos of their friends and you find the quality of the photos is quite poor," Dr Lovell said.
    "You start to get problems in low light performance... it becomes very noisy."

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