Target: President Barack Obama, members of the United States Congress
Goal: Prevent Facebook from automatically opting users in for its facial recognition software
Facebook currently opts its users in for a facial recognition option, which is supposedly designed to automatically suggest users for photo tagging should they appear in someone else’s photo. This appears to be harmless enough, but it is obvious that this policy would place users in potentially awkward and undesirable positions if photos they do not want to be identified in are uploaded by other users. The simple answer by Facebook and other proponents of this feature is for users to opt-out; however, users are not automatically made aware of this feature when they create a Facebook account. In fact, opponents of the feature argue that the opt-out option has been purposely buried within a users account control panel, taking reportedly six clicks to get to. Another concern voiced by opposition groups is that law enforcement agencies would be able to access user photos within the facial recognition database without user knowledge or consent. We must require Facebook to make clear to its users exactly what creating an account with them entails, specifically with regard to facial recognition software.
Other tech giants like Apple or Google have similar features; however, users must opt-in to use them. And with Facebook reportedly already possessing some 60 billion photos and an additional 2.5 billion per month, the potential for exploitation of private data seems a very likely possibility without any provision requiring Facebook to inform its users how their photos might be shared with third parties or law enforcement agencies. The FBI is currently employing a new facial recognition system aimed at taking advantage of public photos like those posted by private citizens on social media websites. We need to ensure that Facebook users are aware of just exactly who has access to their personal data when they sign up for an account. To bury the facts surrounding how user photos can be shared and their information disseminated online is beyond devious and borders on malicious intent. Help force Facebook to inform users of this policy.
Dear President Obama and members of Congress,
We urge you to take action regarding the facial recognition policy currently employed by Facebook. The feature uses complex algorithms to identify users in photos uploaded by other users without the original user’s knowledge or consent. There is an option to opt-out of this feature; however, users are by default opted-in when the sign up for a Facebook account. Users have no idea that their faces can be analyzed and linked to other photos that they themselves have not uploaded. It is imperative that users understand exactly what their photos and likeness will be subjected to when agreeing to join Facebook.
With the Federal Bureau of Investigation deploying a new facial recognition program–which would have access to public Facebook photos–and third party companies chomping at the bit to get their hands on personal data that Facebook compiles daily, ignorant users need a policy in place that seeks to protect them from potential abuse. Clearly Facebook doesn’t want people made aware of this because they most likely assume that informed users would op-out. This communicates that they stand to gain from this policy, while the users will undoubtedly lose, with regard to their privacy. Act now and force Facebook to make users aware of exactly what opting-in on this facial recognition feature will mean for them.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit by Wael Attili via Flickr