Should Facebook’s tweaked face recognition technology worry us

face recognition technologyFacebook is taking face recognition technology to another level. You will now get an alert of your photo being posted on Facebook by your friend (s) even though your friend(s) may not have tagged you.

What’s more, impersonators may find it harder to impersonate you. Today, your profile picture can be copied and used mischievously by someone else as his or her profile photo, and you may not even know.

With Facebook’s new face recognition technology you can catch the impersonator.

The new feature is especially useful for the visually challenged. Facebook says people who use screen readers will know who is there in their News Feed photos even without tagging.

# How does the face recognition technology work

Facebook has published a video on its blog explaining how it matches photographs. Interestingly, Facebook also informs you that it has been doing this since 2010!

Like me, you must also have wondered how Facebook throws up tagging suggestions. Explains Facebook, “Our technology analyzes the pixels in photos you’re already tagged in and generates a string of numbers we call a template. When photos and videos are uploaded to our systems, we compare those images to the template.”

So, now you know what happens when you post a profile picture. Facebook algorithm breaks it down in numbers, which then becomes a unique identity for Facebook’s search engine. Next time, someone posts a picture that has you in the frame, Facebook algorithm matches the numbers with your template, and puts out a tag suggestion.

And if your friend tags you, you get a message.

Now, even if your friend fails to tag you, Facebook will still inform you of your picture being posted on the social media site.

It is quite a step forward.

# Can you block face recognition technology on Facebook

The question is: Do you want to allow Facebook to create and store your picture template, and match it with hundreds of other pictures?

Or you would like to stop Facebook from using its face recognition technology?

Facebook realises that this can become a privacy issue. It therefore plans to provide you with an on/off switch. The moment you put your personal preferences in the off mode, the face recognition technology will stop working.

Today, you can do the same with the tagging control. In your Facebook settings you have the option of stopping your friends from tagging you. All that you need to do is edit your tagging settings, and control who can tag your photograph. Also, you can decide who can see you once your photograph has been tagged.

# Concerns about face recognition technology

It is interesting that Facebook is not introducing its face recognition technology in European Union countries and in Canada. Facebook does not give any reason for this decision.

However, in another blog Facebook acknowledges that there are concerns about the new technology. It says, “As government and non-government agencies, companies and others use face recognition technology in new ways, people want to understand how their privacy is being protected and what choices they have over how this technology is used.”

One of the main causes of concern is the way this technology can be used by law enforcement agencies. There are fears that it can be used to build racial bias against non-whites. Whether this happens or not, but the new technology surely has great potential.

Facebook gives the example of Kodak, which faced suspicion when its inexpensive equipment made photography available to the masses. According to Facebook, one newspaper in 1888 even cautioned  “Beware the Kodak.” The technology was labelled by some as a “new terror for the picnic.” Today, such fears can only evoke ridicule and derision.

I-phone has introduced this technology to help people use their phones more securely. There are plans to use it in personal banking and in making digital payments. It can also be used to find missing and kidnapped children and to screen passports.

Facebook says as it moves forward, it will learn more about what the community thinks of the face recognition technology — good, bad or in between.

One only hopes that the current fears are unfounded, and the new technology will improve the social media experience of millions of Facebook users.


About Sunil Saxena 7 Articles

Sunil Saxena is an award winning media professional with over three decades of experience in New Media, Social Media, Mobile Journalism, Print Journalism, Media Education and Research.

He incubated the award-winning Gaon Ki Awaaz, India’s first voice-based news and information service for rural India that won two South Asian awards and one National award for innovation.

Sunil has authored three media books that are referred texts in most Indian Universities.

His current passion is Social Media, and its integration with industry and traditional media. Among other things he is keenly interested in content management, website development, social media consultancy, development of mobile content and media training.

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