Archives September 2013

Well, Facebook Is At It Again (Part One)…

Many of you may know (and just as many may not) that Facebook is once again updating its privacy policies. This time it’s the Data Use Policy, and the changes are scheduled to go into effect sometime around the end of this week. (What’s that, you say? You didn’t vote on any changes? Well, thanks to the apathetic response by users during the last update, Facebook has now successfully eliminated the need to put changes to a public vote, and thus eliminated the need to care about what the public thinks, as well.) The majority of the updates this time around focus on photo tagging and relevant ad placements. We’ll focus today on tagging, and save the ads for a later column.

Facebook’s Photo Tagging Example

So, what’s the story with this new update? Essentially, Facebook is advancing its “facial recognition” feature beyond where it currently stands, and plans to start adding your profile photo(s) to its facial recognition database, in order to make it easier for your friends to tag you whenever, and wherever, a photo of you might be uploaded to FB. That ability for friends to tag you has been in play for quite a while, as has the suggestion by Facebook of whom to tag in a photo. Where the big change is occurring is that previously, FB only scanned photos of you that were already tagged to add to its database. Now, FB says it “may” start scanning your profile photos, by which it means, of course, that it will.

Reading between the lines, what Facebook is really doing is adding another source of identification of you, yes you, to their database, which in turn will help them more easily identify who your friends are, where you go, what you do… and the end result of all of that identification helps them figure out what ads to show you (and therefore gives them additional selling power to the providers of those ads). Ultimately, it’s just the next logical step in Facebook’s facial recognition agenda, and not that shocking of a step at that, but it does bring to light once again the necessity for all FB users to learn, know, and control their privacy settings.

Facebook’s Tag Suggestion Example

In this case, there are two that are essential to visit, both found within the Account Settings / Timeline and Tagging header. (By the way, the information I’m dishing out here pertains specifically to accessing Facebook via your desktop computer. Things can, and almost certainly will, be slightly different when going through a smartphone or tablet app.) Look for the third section here, entitled “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?” Check, and change, the following two items to the settings you are comfortable with:

1) Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?

I would HIGHLY suggest you set this to “No One”. (This may say “Only Me” on a phone/tablet.) This won’t stop your friends from tagging you if/when they upload photos with you in them, but it will keep FB from suggesting to friends (or anyone else) that it might be you in a photo. To control tagging, go on to the next step.

2) Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?

If this isn’t already, you should strongly consider setting this to “On”, to allow you to review any and all photos that are tagged with your name, before they appear on Facebook. Unfortunately, this does not mean the photo can’t be added or seen by others, it just means that it can’t be tagged with your name, or added to your Timeline. You can always request your friend to take the photo down if you really don’t want it to be seen.

One final caveat: While these two settings will help you limit potentially unwanted photo-exposure on Facebook, they will NOT keep Facebook from scanning your profile photos to add to their facial recognition database. Profile photos (and cover photos) are always set to “public” viewability by default, and this cannot be changed. So, for the more paranoid of you out there, that leaves you with one option — not using a picture of yourself as your profile photo. (Keep in mind that by signing up for Facebook, you are voluntarily agreeing to allow all of your personal information to be seen and/or used; you always have the option to delete your account.)

I certainly hope that this information has proved useful to you! If you think it has, why not share this post with your friends, whether they are on Facebook or not. You might also suggest that they sign up on our blog for future updates, and Like our Facebook page, as well. Thank you!