Facebook changed the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities portion of its user disclosure on Thursday in order to accommodate a novel use of its members’ personal information: using their profile pictures to help enrich the company’s facial recognition technology.
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said the massive social media company will cull photos for the facial recognition technology in order to protect their privacy.
“Our goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service,” said Egan. “Can I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not. If we decided to use it in different ways we will continue to provide people transparency about that and we will continue to provide control.”
Facebook has also updated its disclosure to clarify its relationship with third parties in the sharing of user data. “We may enable access to public information that has been shared through our services, or allow service providers to access information so they can help us provide services,” the disclosure helpfully reveals.
Because users’ profile pictures are public, Facebook can use the photos to feed its controversial facial recognition technology, which, to date, has been limited to tagging photos to a user’s ID data so that they show up on public Facebook searches.
But, as Egan’s comments make clear, it’s a liquid playing field that Facebook reserves the right to change at any time.