Facebook Updates Facial Recognition Settings After CR Investigation
Users who were missing a crucial privacy control will be granted access to the setting starting today, the company says
Facebook has announced that it is expanding access to a setting called Face Recognition that lets users choose whether the company can identify them in photos and videos using facial recognition technology.
The change follows a Consumer Reports investigation published last May that found the Face Recognition setting was missing on some accounts. That left affected people with no obvious way to turn off the technology, nearly 18 months after Facebook first introduced the setting and rolled it out to most users.
Facial recognition works by creating a mathematical “template” that corresponds to your features. Photos and videos are then compared to databases of these templates to look for a match. Facebook’s Help Center promises the company will delete your template if you turn off the Face Recognition setting.
Facebook says it uses facial recognition to help users tag photos and videos with the names of other Facebook users, to aid the visually impaired, and to help the company spot fake accounts.
The social media giant holds a number of patents for other uses of facial recognition, such as linking shoppers in stores to their social media accounts, identifying users’ emotions, and spotting faces and objects in family photos. However, Facebook has repeatedly told Consumer Reports that it doesn’t use the technology for marketing purposes.
“It’s good to see Facebook rolling out the tool they promised almost two years ago, but it’s disappointing that consumers had to wait for a complaint from the FTC before the change arrived,” says Katie McInnis, policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “Facial recognition data is extremely sensitive, and it’s important that all users have access to the same settings so they’re easy to use and understand.”
How to Control Facial Recognition
The upcoming notifications will provide users with details about what the setting does, and include a button that will let users turn the setting on or off, according to Facebook.
This will be an opt-in control. In other words, if users who get the new setting do nothing, Facebook says it won’t use facial recognition to identify them.
If you have access to the Face Recognition setting, you’ll find it on your account settings page. Using a desktop browser, you can navigate there by opening the menu in the top-right corner of any Facebook page and clicking Settings. (The steps are similar on a phone browser or in the Facebook app.) If the control is available to you, you’ll see a link to the Face Recognition setting page about halfway down the list of options on the left-hand side.
The company says that some users getting the setting for the first time may need to update their mobile apps to access it.
To delete the facial recognition template and opt out of any features that use the technology, open the Face Recognition tab. The text says, “Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?” Click Edit and choose No.