Facebook’s Facial Recognition Technology Under Fire in Senate Hearing

Facebook came under intense scrutiny for its facial recognition technology during a Senate hearing held on July 18. Leading the assault on Facebook was Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Franken is particularly concerned that Facebook has this feature enabled by default rather than leaving it to its users to decide whether they want to use it or not. Google+ has the same feature, but they have chosen to respect user privacy by giving their users a choice in the matter.

In defense of Facebook, Rob Sherman, Facebook’s Privacy and Policy Manager, stated:

“Facebook itself is an opt-in experience. People choose to be on Facebook because they want to share with each other. We think that it’s the right choice to let people who are uncomfortable with it to decide to opt out.”

However, Senator Al Franken took issue with Facebook for not telling users about such technologies and went further to literally demonstrate how Facebook makes it difficult for users to find policies related to such technology by holding up a large print out of Facebook’s facial technology user policy guide. The Senator also voiced his concerns about how Facebook would use the data captured by the facial recognition software and asked Sherman if Facebook would sell this data to third parties. However, Sherman could not provide and answer.

Have you chosen to disable Facebook’s Facial Recognition feature? Check out this guide for a complete walk-through on your Facebook privacy and account settings.  (The Facial Recognition feature is item 3 under ‘Privacy Settings’)

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