Facebook stirs privacy ire with facial recognition

EU to launching probe into what critics call a 'creepy' feature

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Earlier last year, Facebook was criticized after the company unveiled tools that would allow the sharing of user information with other Web sites. That move caused an uproar among users and prompted a handful of U.S. senators to send an open letter calling on Facebook to amend its privacy policies.

"You'd think that they would have learned something from the past pounding they've taken on privacy issues, but it doesn't look like they have," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "This is pretty creepy ... Let's say some guy sees an attractive woman, he can snap a quick picture of her with his cellphone camera and then search Facebook to see who she is."

Olds added that people should quickly move to opt out of the feature but he's concerned that most users won't take the issue seriously enough.

But for those who want to turn the feature off, security company Sophos offers some how-tos:

  • First, go to your Facebook "Account" in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Then click on "Privacy Settings."
  • Next, click on "Customize settings."
  • Then go to "Things others share."
  • Beside the option titled "Suggest photos of me to friends. When photos look like me, suggest my name," click "Edit Settings."
  • Click on "Edit settings."
  • Then change it to "Disabled."
  • Don't forget to press "Okay."

Not everyone is concerned about Facebook's facial recognition feature, though.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said the technology is out there whether Facebook uses it or not. "If Facebook doesn't do this someone else likely will," he said. "Remember [Facebook isn't] making private things public with this. They are making public things easier to find."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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