Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Facebook says it won't scan users' faces without consent amid privacy concerns

Social media giant will complete introduction of facial-recognition privacy settings globally over next few months

Facebook says its face recognition technology does not share confidential information with third parties. Reuters
Facebook says its face recognition technology does not share confidential information with third parties. Reuters

Facebook is rolling out face recognition privacy features for all of its users, but said it will set the technology to ‘off’ by default.

The California-based social media giant says users will receive a notification about the new privacy setting in their news feed, which will provide an option to turn on facial recognition. If kept off, the feature will not be used by default to identify users in photos and videos that are posted online by friends. It will also not suggest to friends that they should be 'tagged' in photos.

“We have made the steps to update your settings clearer and you can opt to leave your setting off ... if you do nothing, face recognition will remain off for you,” said Srinivas Narayanan, applied research lead at Facebook AI, in a blog announcing the global release of the service.

First introduced in December 2017 for users in selected markets, face recognition, if turned on, notifies users when someone uploads their images - even if they are not tagged. It allows users to tag themselves, stay untagged or also report if they want those photos to be taken down.

Complete roll-out of the face recognition technology will be done in a couple of months.

Facebook, which is already under fire for not protecting users’ personal data, said it has beefed up security around face recognition technology.

“We don’t share your face recognition information with third parties ... We also don’t sell our technology,” added Mr Narayanan.

The platform remains the most popular in the Middle East, with more than 180 million people using it in the region, according to figures released in April - a more than twofold increase in the number of users over the last five years.

Facebook is already facing legal trouble for the inappropriate use of the face recognition technology.

In August, the company lost a federal appeal in a San Francisco court in a complaint about its failure to disclose facial recognition practices.

In a case filed by Facebook users in Illinois, the company is allegedly accused of illegally collecting users’ biometric data by scanning faces. Lawmakers maintained that the company collected and stored users’ biometric data without their consent.

A facial recognition privacy button will replace the platform's tag suggestions setting, which allows users to decide whether or not to suggest that friends tag them into photos.

In July, US regulators endorsed a $5 billion (Dh18.3bn) privacy settlement with Facebook to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, following a long-running probe into the tech giant's handling of user data.

A major investigation was launched in March last year after the news that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign, obtained user data from a researcher who created a personality quiz app on the social network.

Updated: September 5, 2019 06:03 AM

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