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Facebook Breaks Out the Facial Recognition Software, People Predictably Freak Out

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By HVnews on June 8, 2011

As Facebook unveils an easier way to tag photos, yet another controversy on privacy issues ensues.

In its blog on Tuesday, Facebook announced it will now use facial recognition software to simplify the tagging process.

The software will use facial recognition technology to match new photos of a user with the ones currently on Facebook. It then groups the pictures of a single user together and suggests tags.

“Now if you upload pictures from your cousin’s wedding, we’ll group together pictures of the bride and suggest her name,” wrote Justin Mitchell, a Facebook Engineer, in the blog. “Instead of typing her name 64 times, all you’ll need to do is click “Save” to tag all of your cousin’s pictures at once.”

But Facebook said users could opt out of the service by clicking “Customize Settings” and “Suggest photos of me to friends” in the Privacy Settings page.

But some think this isn’t enough.

“At the end of the day, Facebook’s facial recognition technology is downright creepy,” PC World Blogger Sarah Jacobsson Purewal wrote in a post. “Opting out of the service doesn’t mean Facebook will stop trying to recognize your face–it just means that Facebook will stop suggesting that other people tag you.”

Yet others are happy with the new feature.

“That’s why I so love you Facebook..everything is easy..so convenient..:) ,” Facebook User Roro Caballera posted in response to the blog Tuesday.

But while there may be controversy, facial recognition technology is not new.

Google has been using it on its photo sharing website, Picasa, since 2008, Tech Crunch reports.

It has also been used by many governments.

Mexico used it in the 2000 presidential election to avoid numerous registrations by single voters, according to a press release by the software’s company.

Florida officials also used facial recognition software to verify the presence of terrorists at the Super Bowl XXXV, according to Wired.com.

Facebook’s ability to take advantage of this kind of technology and innovate constantly stems from the fact that CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds 3 out of 4 board seats in the company, making him the sole decision maker.

This gives him a lot of power over the private information of over 600 million users, a fact that makes many nervous.

And this power includes changing his mind.

In November 2010, Zuckerberg told reporters after a news conference, that he didn’t think facial recognition software was the best way to identify people in pictures.

“Before people-tagging came out, I think most people would have said that the best way to figure out who’s in photos was to have some face-recognition algorithm,” he said, according to CNN. “But it actually turns out that the best way is to just have people tagged.”

Though many have been cautious before using facial recognition software, Google decided not to use it in its new Goggle App that allows users to search items using photos, it seems that it has come to stay.

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