Facebook Acknowledges Users’ Need for Control Over Digital Identity with New Facial Recognition Feature

Facebook Acknowledges Users' Need for Control Over Digital Identity with New Facial Recognition FeatureFacebook appears to be acknowledging growing user demand for more control over the digital identities in its launch of a new facial recognition-powered feature that can inform individuals when photos of them are uploaded to the social media platform without their knowledge.

In its official announcement of the feature, Facebook’s Applied Machine Learning Director Joaquin Quiñonero Candela explicitly framed it as an optional tool “to help people better manage their identity on Facebook”, adding later, “You’re in control of your image on Facebook and can make choices such as whether to tag yourself, leave yourself untagged, or reach out to the person who posted the photo if you have concerns about it.” Candela also asserts that Facebook is planning an expansion of this system that will alert a user when someone else tries to use their image as a profile photo, a feature meant “to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook.”

The efforts can be seen as a response, at least in part, to recent concerns about how the social media platform has been abused by fraudulent users in misinformation campaigns, particularly in the lead-up to last year’s US presidential election. But it also appears to reflect growing concern among users about their ability to manage their digital identities. A related issue is privacy, and in rolling out the new feature, Facebook’s Candela notes that users “gave us feedback that they would find it easier to manage face recognition through a simple setting,” and thus Facebook has implemented a simple on/off control for this tool.

While the introduction of this new image alert feature is another sign of the growing prevalence of biometric technology and facial recognition in particular, its pairing with a simple privacy control may point to a growing sensitivity about how such technology is used. And given the legal pitfalls that Facebook itself has already experienced in previous deployments of facial recognition technology, it’s clear that the company is now seeing a value in both implementing the technology, and doing it carefully.

December 22, 2017 – by Alex Perala