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Facebook facial recognition could get creepy

Facial recognition isn't necessarily a good thing

New facial recognition technology used to identify your friends in photos could have some interesting applications - and some scary possibilities.

Misidentification is another problem. Gil Hirsch, CEO of Face.com, says that his company set up a very high threshold of recognition to confirm face matches on its Photo finder app.

"We don't want to send you a message saying 'Hey Megan we found a photo of you' and it's not really you," he explained. But that threshold of recognition will be different with every system, Facebook's included. Nevertheless, better and faster algorithms are slowly whittling down the likelihood of erroneous identifications. Compared to being accurately identified to a stranger, misidentification may register as a lesser concern.

Tien of EFF notes: "If Facebook misidentifies someone, the consequences are not the same as when a police video-camera misidentifies you as a suspect." True, unless a misidentification implicates you in dubious activities. The imagination reels.

From a business perspective, it's important to Facebook that its users tag themselves and each other in as many photos as possible. These tags create more page views, which is valuable to Facebook's advertisers. But it could go much further. If you are tagged in a photo with three friends, advertisers could tailor information to what they think you might want based on your friend's preferences. Though perhaps not at the level of an infringement of legal privacy rights, facial recognition in the hands of Facebook does permit advertisers an unprecedented level of information about how to get a message across to you.

Facial recognition is a cool technology that Facebook is using to add more convenience to the act of tagging people in photos. The technology may indeed create more connections between friends, and so far it seems to pose little real threat to privacy - because for now it's all among friends. But that could change. If you are uncomfortable with facial recognition, pay a visit to your Facebook privacy settings and opt out of the feature. In the broader view, it's important that we all keep a close eye on Facebook's use of this powerful technology, and that we let tech privacy groups and lawmakers know if the technology is being abused to enrich social networking sites and their advertisers, at the expense of our privacy.

  1. Facial recognition isn't necessarily a good thing
  2. The software isn't new
  3. Safe now, but what's coming?
  4. Misidentification
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