Facebook’s new privacy woes

Facebook has once again raised the ire of privacy advocates with the wider roll-out of facial recognition software that invites people to tag photos of their friends in the wildly popular social network.

According to Facebook Tag Suggestions works “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.”

This means that Facebook is now leveraging the social graph to learn what people look like and using that information without people’s permission or consent. People can only find out they’ve been tagged after it has occurred at which point they have the option to untag themselves from any photos.

Privacy advocates are alarmed that this new feature is enabled for all users by default which has prompted an EU privacy probe as regulators investigate whether the photo-tagging feature breaches European data protection legislation.

The security vendor Sophos recently wrote an open letter to Facebook calling for "privacy by default" that calls for “no more sharing of information without your users’ express agreement (OPT-IN).” It’s very difficult for Facebook users to stay in control when these changes are made without their knowledge or agreement.

These developments once again raise important considerations for organisations that engage with customers and prospects through third party social media channels.

While Facebook is without a doubt the world’s most popular social networking service, brands need to consider these potential breaches of privacy in the context of maintaining trust-based relationships with customers.

In the world of brands and social media marketing – be careful not to place all your bets on Facebook – privacy is just another issue where Facebook could overplay its hand.  

Please read this article for more information about how to disable “Suggest photos of me to friends” in Facebook.

What do you think of Facebook’s new facial recognition tool? Does it represent a breach of privacy in your opinion?

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