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Facebook quietly turns on face recognition, sparks privacy concerns

Facebook has stated that the photo-tagging suggestions can be disabled in the privacy settings.

Facebook has quietly rolled out a facial recognition feature that makes it easier to tag friends in snaps. But this feature has raised eyebrows in some circles, as the social networking site has introduced it as a default setting.

The facial-recognition technology, which Facebook automatically enabled for its users, automatically identifies people in photos uploaded to the site.

Facebook turns on facial recognition
Facebook introduced this feature last year for its North American users, and it is now expanding the availability of the technology to "most countries" around the world, the company said on its official blog Tuesday.

The feature basically intends to make it easier for people to tag groups of their friends in an album.

“Every day, people add more than 100 million tags to photos on Facebook. They do it because it's an easy way to share photos and memories. Unlike photos that get forgotten in a camera or an unshared album, tagged photos help you and your friends relive everything from that life-altering skydiving trip to a birthday dinner where the laughter never stopped. Tags make photos one of the most popular features on Facebook,” the Facebook blog post reads.

Security firm Sophos expressed concerns over the social networking site’s move to make the facial recognition feature a default setting.

Technology intends to make tagging easier
The social networking site claims that tag suggestions will make tagging multiple photos even more convenient, speeding up the process of labeling friends and acquaintances that appear in photos posted on the social network website.

On its blog post, Facebook explains: “Because photos are such an important part of Facebook, we want to be sure you know exactly how tag suggestions work: When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software—similar to that found in many photo editing tools—to match your new photos to other photos you're tagged in. We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.”

Sparked controversy
But Facebook’s "Tag Suggestions" feature is not welcomed by security firm Sophos that quickly pointed out some issues regarding users’ privacy.

The firm expressed concerns over the social networking site’s move to make the facial recognition feature a default setting.

"Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth," Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos wrote in a blog post.

"Now might be a good time to check your Facebook privacy settings as many Facebook users are reporting that the site has enabled the option in the last few days without giving users any notice.”

“As your Facebook friends upload their albums, Facebook will try to determine if any of the pictures look like you,” Cluley wrote. “And if they find what they believe to be a match, they may well urge one of your Facebook friends to tag it with your name. The tagging is still done by your friends, not by Facebook, but rather creepily Facebook is now pushing your friends to go ahead and tag you.”

"Remember, Facebook does not give you any right to pre-approve tags. Instead the onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in. After the fact," he stated.

Users can turn off the feature
Facebook has stated that the photo-tagging suggestions can be disabled in the privacy settings.

If one doesn't want facial recognition turned on, he can go to Facebook account's privacy settings.

To see if it's enabled, click "Edit Settings" and the box should either say "enabled" or "disabled."

To turn off the feature, go to your Facebook account's privacy settings, and click on "Customize settings," go to "Things others share" and click “Edit Settings” next to “Suggest photos of me to friends.” There one can disable the facial recognition feature, Facebook suggests.