How to Turn Off Facebook's Face Recognition Features

Facebook recently expanded its face recognition features—and you may have opted in without even realizing

Curated via Twitter from WIRED’s twitter account….

And least the company seems to strike a decent balance between utility and privacy. "They won’t identify you using face recognition to people who couldn’t identity you in real life, and that to me seems like the right line," says Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "I personally am comfortable with face tagging in this very circumscribed context, but only in that context where it’s to someone who would already recognize you.

If you haven't yet encountered the new notification, it provides some detail about the change. "You control face recognition," the message reads, popping up in your News Feed and explaining that the platform now has three main goals for the tech: surfacing photos of you that you haven't been tagged in, flagging situations where someone you don't seem to know uses a photo of you in their profile (perhaps to impersonate or troll you), and improving the photo-browsing experience for people with visual impairments.

It then gives you a tailored explanation of whether your account is currently set to have the feature on or off. "Using facial recognition to help the visually impaired or as a tool to identify and combat cyber harassment is notable, because the positive uses of facial recognition technology are pretty limited to fun and maybe authentication," says Woodrow Hartzog, a law and computer science professor at Northeastern University who studies privacy and data protection. "It's interesting now to see different uses.

And while Facebook says that it isn't opting everyone in, you may be surprised to find the feature already on. "The new setting is not on by default," says Facebook spokesperson Rochelle Nadhiri. True, but not so simple. "The new setting respects people’s existing choices, so if you’ve already turned off tag suggestions then your new face recognition setting will be off by default.

As a public company, if Facebook can find opportunities to monetize the data or harness it to fuel user growth, it will take them. "Facebook users need to realize that they are being actively nudged toward the use of biometrics," Northeastern's Hartzog says. "That makes exercising choice even more important, because the inertia of modern social media is to get you to disclose more and more and build an environment that keeps facilitating that.

Observers also note that limited face recognition applications for users doesn't necessarily mean that Facebook as a company isn't deriving a larger benefit from all the biometric face data it gathers.

If you're not comfortable with Facebook's new face recognition tools, you can head to Settings > Face Recognition, then select yes or no at the question Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?

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