Facebook Adding Facial Recognition ‘For Privacy’

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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.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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