back to article Facebook: 'We should've been more clear' on face-scanning tech

Facebook has tried to prevent yet another privacy row engulfing the social network by admitting it "should have been more clear" about the roll-out of its facial recognition technology. The company also posted an updated blog post explaining that its Tag Suggestions function had been switched on by default for the majority of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    When the funk will facetb00k learn...

    Roll out things turned off, then let the user decide to turn it on...

    How hard can it be? How can you make this mistake each and every time?

    1. Ole Juul

      It's not a mistake

      and they already did learn. They've learnt to say: "we should have been more clear". So far that seems to work for them.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "How hard can it be? How can you make this mistake each and every time?"

      Well to be fair Zuckerberg and most of his employees are children...

      Let that be a lesson to you, kids never learn!

      1. Elmer Phud


        you learn from kids - adults always think they know better

    3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Big Brother

      .. because it is NOT a mistake..

      Come on, get real. How are they going to grab more user data if they have to ask for permission? Not a chance.

      You cannot convince me that this is a "mistake"..

      1. Anonymous Coward

        "You cannot convince me"

        a real skeptic demands to be convinced

    4. DZ-Jay

      Not a mistake

      As others have said, this was not a mistake. Even if users feel it's creepy and disable the feature in their Privacy Settings, it will probably not delete the data gathered. What the spokesperson mentioned was that people can opt-out of having their names show up as recommendations, not to actually prevent their pictures from being scanned or to have the already scanned data removed.

      So, what have Facebook learned from their past "mistakes"? That they can extract the data by stealth from their users, issue an apology if it becomes a public concern, and--most importantly--keep the data.


    5. Wize

      By 'turned off' do you mean...

      ...each user will get to turn off auto tagging on new images they upload

      or each user can determine if their name will pop up in other peoples pictures when they come to tag it.

      Turning off the later would be the way to stop your face being used in the auto recognition algorithm. I bet we don't get the off switch for that. And if we did, we would still probably be used in the background.

      I'm betting law enforcement get a back door to run photos through the whole database.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      I agree with you....

      Facebook did this on purpose of coarse.....

      Face-scanning tech is going to make huge mounds of cash for Facebook and the end user should be terrified.

      Facebook creates an aggregated profile of you. It doesn't matter what privacy settings you have on your account. So when you post your birth date and name they have hit pay dirt. But not everyone puts up their B-day.

      How does a huge corporation create a profile... First you ip address will tell a corporation where you live. The zip code will tell them how much you make. The way the world works is poor people live in poor neighborhoods and rich in rich neighborhoods. This info is provided for free from the government census data.

      Then if you post your music or TV shows you watch is also a gold mind. Market researchers have demographic groups. They find some stupid person who answers a survey. They tell this person it will be an anonymous survey and it is . And they build this profile about how much this person make, where this person shops and what he/she purchases. When you divulge personal info on the Internet they match that profile in reverse to you.

      So Facebook as a problem when someone closes a Facebook account, now they have to start over. But not anymore. They just take their aggregated profile of you and match it up with their aggregated face scan if you open a new Facebook account. It doesn't end there, since they have all these cross data sharing agreements with other large corporations. You open an account on Flickr or Yahoo and now they know who you are if you post a picture of yourself.

      Deleting your data won't delete the aggregated profile You have to send a request to the corporation to delete the info. But of coarse they won't because it isn't illegal to have this database. Then you will have to contact your congress person to have them change the law. But since most of the elected officials are millionaires and sit on the boards of these corporation or planning to become a lobbyist after leaving office they wont' do anything.

      Facebook has learned. It has learned to sell your personal info to other corporations for profit for themselves and when they go public their shareholders.

      So the only way to stop this is to stop giving out personal info online and posting pictures. Remember once it is on the Internet it is on the Internet FOREVER!.

    7. Shannon Jacobs
      Big Brother

      THEIR value, not YOUR value

      I think you were trying to be rhetorical, but I'll go ahead and state the obvious. Facebook's value is increased by maximizing the sharing of your personal information. Protecting your personal information is fundamentally opposed to increasing Facebook's value. Expecting Facebook to take any measure to protect your privacy is exactly like expecting someone to understand something that he is being paid NOT to understand.

      Not original. There's a famous quote. I thought it was Will Rogers, but I can't find the source. Someone point me at it?

  2. Anigel

    opt out?

    How can you opt out of something that has been added and turned on by default without any notification at all. Facebook keep making the same mistake over and over again. If you honestly cannot sell your wonderful new feature to me enough to make me turn it on then you need to ask if you should be including it in the first place, let alone forcing it down my throat and telling me sometime later that I could have opted out of something you never told me about if I didn't want it.

    1. ChrisInBelgium
      Thumb Down


      No mistake. They have always done this, sometimes even making "changes" to turn on all your settings you had turned off. It's a dispicable way of treating the user, but they don't care one bit.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    does this tagging "feature"

    only apply to those with facebork accounts; or can anyone, in any photo get named & tagged (and then autotagged by fb)?

    1. Shaun 1

      Try reading the article

      It states that only friends are suggested

      1. dakisan


        Point = missed. That is just the current _implementation_ of the technology.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        only "friends", eh?

        All sorts of readings of that, though, given the quotation marks: friends, "friended facebook accounts", the sort of passer-by you might colloquially describe as a friend (or at least id on a photo on facebook), someone who isn't a friend (hence "friend", not friend), someone who the writer supposes isn't a real friend (even though you keep id'ing them on facebook).

      3. Tom 13

        Doesn't matter what Facebook told the authors.

        I'm not overly concerned about it, but the posters have a point: there's a huge difference between "turned off so the fingerprint is never generated" and "turned off so your friends can't use the fingerprint" and that is all well shy of "and you have to delete the data you collected about me for which you did not ask permission."

  4. MonsieurInconnu

    Um, again???

    So they haven't learnt to communicate more clearly after last time, and the time before that, and the time before.....

    Either they are supremely dishonest, or amazingly stupid for not having learnt the lesson. I'm not sure which is worse...

  5. as2003

    it's for the greater good

    The majority of people people will benefit from this technology. The vast majority of people do not know how to change their preferences. Ergo, this new feature should be on by default.

    Who gives a toss if facebook tells your friend that you might be in a photo they just uploaded?

    The vanishing minority of people who have concerns about privacy issues a) can switch the feature off, if they so wish, or b) delete their facebook accounts and shut the hell up. You'll not find privacy on facebook.

    This reminds me of the furore over google street view. Something far more invasive than this. Sure, terrorists and burgers can use it, but the benefits out weigh these cherry-picked worst-case scenarios.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward



    2. DZ-Jay


      As far as I can tell, the Google Street View fiasco ended up in an international controversy that has culminated in the project being stopped from gathering Wi-Fi hot-spot data, and governments the world over opening up a critical eye towards Google's business practices where they once took them at face value.


      1. multipharious
        Black Helicopters

        @dZ - correct sir

        And curiously when the iPhone location fiasco kicked off (which I more or less believe was not intentional just sloppy from a security standpoint,) the rocks got flipped over for Android as well, and it turned out that the "accidental" bit of code that was included in the global StreetView Wi-Fi slurp looked a lot less accidental combined with the fact that Google is using their entire phone install base (if the user did not opt out of two checkboxes) as mobile Wi-Fi update drones.

        Configure an Android phone from a blank device to see what I mean.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      "delete their facebook accounts and shut the hell up"

      Don't tell anybody what you know, the truth might be dangerous.

      Betray Your Family & Friends. Fabulous Prizes to be Won

    4. Blitterbug

      @as2003 - I admire your courage... trolling under your real username and not as an AC.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Close your account. Be free

    I just did - and it felt so good. Now that my friendships are real - not virtual - it feels... better. Realer. FB can FOFF outta my face! It's all just big bubble and it's high time it burst.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Deleted mine a while back to. Had enough of trolling people I haven't talked to since school (got surprisingly boring)

      For anyone else that wants to, you can permanently delete (not just deactivate) your account. Visit the link below and then don't go on facebook for 14 days and your done.

  7. Ralthor


    Oh I dunno. its been pretty much conclusively proven that facebook does not care about your privacy. If you care then delete your profile.. Then move to a cave. Change your mobile phone and divorce your wife in case she mentions you on her profle. Besides she probably wont like the cave.

    Alternatively live with it and acknowledge your stupidity in scribbling the details of your life with indelible ink on the wall outside the public toilets.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Hah - already started the pollution

    Due to the volume, the system needs to be able to handle duplicates.

    Get together with a few friends, and each takes a couple of pictures of random crowds (six people or so per shot). Then tag those people randomly, some of which with your friend's name. Repeat for each picture, then swap pictures with your friends. Eventually you have so many 3rd parties tagging people as you it'll be wholly unclear who YOU actually are (that is, if you're smart enough to remove your profile picture).

    You can make it worse by going into other people's albums and tag yourself and friends - FB allows multiple tags per face so you can make quite a soup :-).

    I tolerate FB, but Zuckerberg's undiminished and unending desire to grab more and more data is getting annoying enough for me to re-evaluate iFB's usefulness.

    1. Chris Thomas Alpha


      HA! This is awesome, pollute it with so many false results that facebook won't be able to know wtf picture is what......oh thats brilliant, well done sir!

    2. Steven Roper

      Have you tried

      taking pictures in crowded places? Where I live, you do that only at your extreme peril. Because if you're male and caught taking pictures in crowds, you're either a terrorist or a paedophile.

      Nice idea though, just a shame that our freedoms have already been destroyed to the point that you can't implement it without considerable risk. Or get a woman to do the photographing. Nobody thinks women are terrorists or paedophiles.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Photo of Mark Zuckerberg's face

    How about adding everyone posts photos to Facebook in which each user is holding a photo of Mark Zuckerberg's face near their face? Would Mr Zuckerberg receive a lot of suggestions to friend members of the proletariat?

    1. mark11727
      Big Brother

      What would happen...

      ...if we all just replaced our profile pictures with Zuckerberg's Time Man of the Year cover?

  10. Shak

    On the other hand...

    I actually *want* to know when somebody decides to upload a picture of me without my permission. Better than them being able to do so discreetly. Remember, you then have the option to de-tag or even report/request removal if you're concerned about privacy... but if you didn't know in the first place the latter options aren't available to you.

    1. The Commenter formally known as Matt


      why would you have any say in how someone elses photo is used? Whoever took the photo owns the rights to it surely?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters


      Except this does not notify you if someone uploads a photo of you, it only suggests to your "friend" that you might be in the photo so they can tag you if they so desire. If they choose to upload a photo of you surreptitiously, you'll never know.

  11. PaulR79

    "She said "existing privacy settings" were always respected."

    Except for the last big change where they suggested big changes to my settings which would have left my account wide open for all to view. Then there's the time before that and the one before that ..... it's been said by others and will be said by more after me but they just don't care about privacy. I have an account there, yes, but I detest having to check privacy settings to keep it in check.

  12. Gadget Rage is BAD

    Whats the fuss??

    Before this was introduced a friend uploads a picture, they can tag you in it, post this being introduced, a friend uploads a picture, they can tag you in it, only difference is that it helps them find you in the picture, big woop, whats the story exactly apart from yet another excuse for those who don't use Facebook to remind us all why they won't use it?

  13. jai

    you can't disable the feature if on a phone

    you can't surf the desktop version of the fb website from your phone, it'll automatically redirect you to the website.

    and that slimmed down site doesn't contain the opt-out for the suggestion. it, typically for facebook, sucks

    the only solution, i guess, is to un-tag myself from any and all pictures so that they do not have any source images to identify me by

    1. Stephen 5

      you CAN disable this feature on a phone.

      Browse to the facebook page on the internet browser on your phone if it redirects to the mobile version.

      So from here click the link labelled "More" and select "Desktop site" now you can mess around on the full version of the site.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      > you can't surf the desktop version of the fb website from your phone,

      > it'll automatically redirect you to the website.

      ... and then you tap "More" and then tap "Desktop Site" at the bottom of the list and as if by magic you have access to the entire web version of FB.

      1. Wize

        They changed the mobile version...

        It used to be a fast loading mostly text page. Now its all script and takes an age when you have a poor signal. Come on Facebook, keep things simple.

        1. Test Man


          If you want a text-based Facebook, just go to

          There. Facebook - already keeping it simple.

          1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor


            "Sorry, is only supported by certain mobile networks and is not available from your mobile network."

            How thoroughly helpful. And also inexplicable.

  14. Jonjonz
    Thumb Down

    The Attention Deficit Generation Bends Over and Spreads...

    Big Brother never had it so easy. The attention deficit generation bends over for big brother and spreads. Idiocracy was/is NOT fiction.

  15. Scott Broukell

    personally ..

    I have developed my own Face Book Recognition system - every time something FB pops up I immediately close it down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      even better....

      I blackhole'd their domain, and their CDN's domain. This makes every other site load faster as well.

      Why do sites need 'like' buttons? If I'm on your site, I probably like it, unless I'm trying to deface it (which I personally don't do.)

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        The "like" button does actually more..

        I have a sneaky feeling that the "like" button is a bit like Google's Adscan in that its presence means that Farcebook is probably seeing your presence.

        Would love it if anyone could verify this..

        /// P ///

  16. Anonymous Coward 99


    I was more worried by the setting I saw at the same time, about making photos available to the the friends of those tagged? Does this override my OWN settings?

  17. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    Same old cack from "companies" like this. Roll out some tech they know is borderline, then if no one complains, they win. If people complain all the company has to say is, "Oops! Aren't we naughty! Sorry! Tell you what...quick look at that interesting thing over there!", meanwhile they tone it down a bit and rewrite the contract agreements to allow said innovation to continue working as they originally intended!

  18. Chris Thomas Alpha

    the privacy option is called....

    "Suggest photos of me to friends" [ Edit Settings ]

    opening that, and selecting disabled.

    I found it on my account and I wasn't aware it was enabled, probably to give them enough time to scan my pictures and tag them before telling me it's available and then I can't take my data back.

    so I suggest you guys pass the word along and get everybody you know to turn it off..

  19. C 18

    I don't get it

    The website is called FACEbook.

    They have facial recognition.

    It is a technological milestone to be applauded that computers can identify you from a photograph with any level of accuracy.

    If you don't like what Facebook does, stay out of the game.

    It's a bit like walking into a pub and giving out about all the drinking going on in there.

    I am not a Facebooker although I have a page, it doesn't have a picture of me on it. Just a muppet. I guess I was trying to be ironic... Perhaps that's what all the naysayers are trying to be also.

  20. mraak

    Down vote me

    Down vote me again, but i will repeat it anyway. Facebook is for idiots. In 3 years you won't be down voting me anymore.

    1. multipharious

      Everyone hates tagging (well at least I do!)

      I looked at your post history, and you never got downvote mobbed on here for insulting facebook (maybe you did and withdrew the post?)

      I really hate tagging, and I am sorry you had to deal with the downside of it. The trouble is that if you have de-activated your facebook account then you cannot control it at all. People can upload whatever they want and you will never have a chance of knowing about it.

      May I recommend a different strategy? To stop tagged photos from being displayed to the world and dog, goto

      Account >> Privacy Settings>>Customize Settings>>

      Under Things others share, give it a good going over, but the most important setting to block others from broadcasting a photo is:

      Things others share>>Photos and videos you're tagged in>>Edit Settings

      Use the drop-down to select >>Custom>>edit

      Under Make this visible to select >> Only Me.

      Re-activate your account, and go with Restricted group setting for folks you don't know super well, and select Friends only for everything else. Just a suggestion. Take care man! See you around on El Reg!

  21. Tom 35

    add tags of their friends in photos: something that'sndone more than 100 million times a day

    And about 99 million of them are people tagging their "friends" names to "other" things like the back end of a horse for example.

  22. tiggertaebo
    Big Brother

    When will the users learn?

    What suprises me about things like this is not that facebook keeps making these "mistakes" but that no-one amongst the userbase ever seems to learn the one simple rule to facebook - never give it any information or images that you wouldn't want to be made public.

    Privacy settings are all well and good but they have shown time and time again that they aren't trustworthy nor constant. If people are happy to give up that information in order to get whatever percieved benefit they get from facebook then that's all well and good, if you aren't willing to make that trade then don't be on facebook. I for one have chosen not to make that particular deal and I'm not telling other people that they shouldn't - I just wish they would actually learn what it is they are doing.

  23. Dunstan Vavasour

    API changes

    While the users are humans rather than applications, this is just like changing an API: something you previously did has a different consequence

    Usually a change in API is publicised well in advance, and accompanied by Release Notes. Given that FB are positioning themselves as a general provider of online identity services, they need to start taking APIs seriously, whether used by software or humans.

    Seems ironic that they are moving into the buildings vacated by Sun in Menlo Park - Sun's Binary Compatibility Guarantee (maintained under Oracle) is the gold standard of stability for user software APIs.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. ForthIsNotDead
    Thumb Down


    I tell you something. Every time I read something about FaceFuck, I thank God I don't have an account there.

    That is some creepy shit.

  26. David Gosnell

    Storm in a tea-cup

    This functionality only makes existing functionality easier to use. It's similar to new friend suggestions - and probably about as unreliable as that crock o' crap, in fairness. For a long time they've spotted faces, now they're just suggesting who they might be. It's an aid, not an intrusion. Until abuse or paymaster collusion is proven, of course...

  27. Joe User

    Facebook's operational motto

    Easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

  28. joe.user

    Time for Discovery

    Once they get sued for this, the discovery will show they clearly KNOW what they are doing. This accidental claim is complete B$

  29. Anonymous Coward

    same old story

    Open the stable door - let horse bolt - say sorry. - STINKS

  30. Captain DaFt

    A simple solution

    Change your personal photo on all sites (not just Facebook) to this:

    And get your friends to do it too!

    For those that are curious, this is a photo of Fearless Leader, Boris and Natasha's boss, from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  31. dc2010

    Facial recognition technology is already ubiquitous; I'm more worried about their messaging system!

    Even the iPhone is going to be doing it with iOS 5.0. I'm not so much worried about this as the "work" Facebook has been doing integrating online and offline IM. For more than a week now I have messages in my Facebook Inbox from blocked users (some of them extremely abusive). I logged a bug report and got a boilerplate response asking for a "screenshot" despite my succinct initial bug description of "Inbox Bugs: Messages from blocked users appear in my Inbox!‏".

    I value my privacy and spend a significant amount of time reducing my Google footprint (a la Facebook, LinedIn etc.) so I find it infuriating that Internet giants like Facebook see my privacy as something of tradable commodity...

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