Facebook: 'We should've been more clear' on face-scanning tech

Tries to downplay stealth roll-out


Facebook has tried to prevent yet another privacy row engulfing the social network by admitting it "should have been more clear" about the roll-out of its facial recognition technology.

The company also posted an updated blog post explaining that its Tag Suggestions function had been switched on by default for the majority of its users.

"When we announced this feature last December, we explained that we would test it, listen to feedback and iterate before rolling it out more broadly," said a Facebook spokeswoman.

"We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them. Tag Suggestions are now available in most countries and we'll post further updates to our blog over time."

But that only came after The Register and presumably other publications questioned why Facebook hadn't informed its users that the tech was being folded into their accounts, stealth fashion.

As we reported yesterday, security guru Graham Cluley first spotted that Facebook had applied its facial recognition tech to more of its accounts, without notifying its users.

The company started testing the tech in December when it introduced facial recognition to its Stateside users.

At that point, Facebook at least had the courtesy to pen a blog post explaining the new function, which somewhat creepily scans existing photos in a given account, then looks at photos in other accounts, before suggesting to individuals to "tag" their "friends" accordingly.

However, as Cluley noted yesterday, Facebook chose the "opt out" rather than "opt in" method of adding the tech. That decision, plus the lack of a blog post detailing the roll-out, meant that many users of the network were unwittingly exposed to Mark Zuckerberg's face-scanning tech.

"We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos: something that's currently done more than 100 million times a day," said the Facebook spokeswoman.

"Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. If for any reason someone doesn't want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their Privacy Settings," she added.

The Facebook spokeswoman also batted away suggestions that the company's users' privacy was being eroded due to the "opt out" nature of the facial recognition function. She said "existing privacy settings" were always respected. ®

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