Facial recognition technology is used by Facebook for marketing purposes and allows the company to track its users’ behavior even better. It also provides priceless information about users – information that some companies will pay dearly for.
Facebook announced that it intended to use the technology over two years ago. However, they promised that users would be able to choose whether they are being tracked by the technology. Sadly, the latest scandals related to how Facebook treats personal information and privacy of its users indicate that the company struggles to deliver on their promises when it comes to protecting their users.
Consumer Reports decided to conduct a small investigation. They asked 31 users to grant them access to their accounts. After going through settings, journalists did not find a switch that would turn the facial recognition off. Eight users (about 25% of the same pool) had no such option. Other users had the promised privacy setting.
Some experts expressed their concerns in regards to this particular issue.
“Since the company has one of the largest name-face databases in the world and the power to infer significant things about people whom it identifies, it’s especially important that it craft and execute appropriate policies for face recognition,” says Evan Selinger, who studies facial recognition technology as a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“All users should be able to access the same easy-to-use setting for preventing Facebook from recognizing them in photos and videos, and for deleting their templates,” he says.
Users should be able to opt out of the facial recognition program employed by Facebook at any time. Facebook not only disallows some users to do so but also doesn’t provide enough information about the facial recognition technology or even inform users that they are being a part of it. When asked, many people didn't even know that Facebook could be scanning their faces and images for information purposes.
Facial recognition is a powerful tool that can be used in a plethora of ways. While Facebook claims that they will delete mathematical patterns that are used to describe facial features of users if they decide to opt out, many people doubt that the company actually removes the data. In the end, Facebook is the largest database of people on Earth. Some people suspect that the company has so-called shadow profiles with information on people who are not even Facebook users.
Recent scandals involving Cambridge Analytica and Rankware tell us that Facebook is careless when it comes to privacy and protection of personal information. Facial recognition patterns may be compromised too. The ability to instantly recognize a person and keep track of their whereabouts based on surveillance footage and photos taken by other people is a very dangerous tool.