September 1, 2013 - Facebook
says it will expand its facial recognition database to include over 1 billion extra faces as it incorporates usersâ€™ profile pictures into its database, thereby increasing the scope of its existing, highly controversial technology.
The worldâ€™s largest social network made the announcement Thursday in an update to its data use policy. Facebookâ€™s â€śTag Suggestâ€ť feature already automatically recognizes â€śfriendâ€ť faces in photo uploads to speed up the process of tagging friends, but the new adaptation will also use the facial recognition technology to identify its own usersâ€™ profile pictures.
â€śOur goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service,â€ť Erin Egan, Facebookâ€™s chief privacy officer, told Reuters, adding that the change would give users
better control over their information.
Facebookâ€™s existing technology identifies faces automatically by comparing them to previous tagged photographs.
Egan added that there would be an â€śopt outâ€ť feature, meaning that somebodyâ€™s photograph could be excluded from the facial recognition database.
The practice has already raised regulatory concerns in Europe, meaning Facebook
users there will not be affected by the change â€“ it is only for US users. Facebook
was persuaded to disable its facial recognition technology across Europe
earlier this year, after an investigation by privacy authorities in Germany and Ireland.
â€śCan I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not,â€ť Egan said. â€śIf we decided to use it in different ways we will continue to provide people [with] transparency about that and we will continue to provide control.â€ť
Critics said that there has also been little attempt in the new update to provide greater clarity as to policies.