Now that Facebook has bought facial recognition vendor Face.com, many users are worried that the giant social network will use the technology to infringe on their privacy. While you can’t stop Facebook from grabbing the facial-recognition data, there are ways to limit the service’s use of that information.
Security vendor Sophos has posted step-by-step instructions on how to prevent Facebook from using that facial-recognition data to suggest to other users that they tag their pictures with your name.
While Facebook users can’t stop the company from gathering the information, the privacy settings in their accounts lets them pull in the reins and take some control over which photos bear their names.
“This doesn’t mean that Facebook won’t learn about what you look like and associate it with your likes and friendships,” writes Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in the company’s blog. “But it does mean you can opt out of Facebook using the data it has collected on your appearance,”
The steps are fairly straightforward.
Simply go to “timeline and tagging” in the privacy settings, click on “edit settings” and then select “no one” on the option “who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded.” Press “OK,” and you are done.
This opt out procedure reflects Facebook’s general approach when it comes to privacy. Users typically have to opt out of sharing personal information, as opposed to being asked beforehand. By comparison, Google+ asks users for permission before applying facial-recognition technology.
Facebook had been using the Israeli startup’s technology for some time, but the buyout was announced on Monday. Actually owning Face.com is expected to lead Facebook to more deeply integrate the totechnology into its services.
The Increasing Importance of Pictures
For Facebook, a picture seems to be worth far more than a thousand words. Before its initial public offering in May, Facebook told potential investors in regulatory filings that photos were expected to add value to the company.
The Face.com acquistion is only the latest attempt to make the most of how their used on the site. Two months ago, Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram, a service for easily sharing photos by mobile phone.
But just because Facebook thinks pictures are important doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to let it do anything it wants with your image, and your image. You own your face, Facebook doesn’t.
reportedly a done deal, all of the focus is on what the merger will do for Facebook’s mobile efforts. But there may be more to the deal than just mobile.With Facebook’s acquisition of Face.com
“Give us 14 images of you,” Google’s Eric Schmidt famously told the Technology Conference in 2010, “and we can find other images of you with 95% accuracy.”
That was impressive at the time, and that 95% is probably much higher now. But what was more impressive is that the feature, which isn’t available on Google Image Search, is expected to be offered first by Face.com. As the Web becomes increasingly visual, image search is going to become increasingly important, and an acquisition of Face.com may be the strongest signal yet that Facebook is positioning itself to go toe-to-toe with Google in search.
The inevitable implications of enhanced image search are huge. One of the biggest reasons it hasn’t been launched on Google Image Search and has only been launched on a limited basis on Facebook is that the computing power hasn’t quite caught up to allow for quick searches based on facial recognition algorithms, but that is rapidly changing.
PCWorld has a comprehensive look at the good and bad of facial recognition technology, with plenty of space devoted to the increased privacy concerns. As Eli Pariser noted in The Filter Bubble, “The ability to search by face will shatter many of our cultural illusions about privacy and anonymity…[it will be] as if the whole Internet has been tagged on Facebook.”
Neither company is commenting on the deal, but there are widespread reports that Facebook would pay between $80 million and $100 million for the Israeli startup.
The rumor, coupled with recent acquisitions of photosharing apps Instagram and Lightbox and the release of its own Facebook Camera app, make it clear that Facebook is betting on a visual Web for its future growth. But it also shows that Facebook is putting the money it raised in its initial public offering to work, acquiring companies instead of going through the process of developing new products, features and services in-house.
Imagine sitting down at your desk in the morning and having your computer automatically power up, recognize you and log into your desktop. From there, you can swipe from app to app using your hands – not on a touchscreen, but by moving your hands naturally through the air. Unlike the mouse of yesteryear, your machine recognizes gestures in 3D space and you can manipulate things on the screen using your fingers, selecting photos from a 3D gallery or even browsing the Web.
None of the technology described above is new, but it could be coming to personal computers over the next few years, if a recent patent filing from Apple is any indication.
The patent, titled “Three Dimensional Imaging and Display System”, looks a lot like what owners of the XBox 360 can already do using the Kinect add-on for the gaming and entertainment console. The hardware could recognize and track human bodies sitting in front of it, and possibly even include facial recognition technology, something that is already being experimented with as a way to unlock mobile phones.
The system would enable people to control their computer with hand gestures, manipulating on-screen virtual control buttons and knobs and navigating through documents and information in 3D. This may well be in concert with other new human-machine interface methods like on screen multitouch and voice control. Apple hasn’t said whether they plan on integrating Siri with other products, but if its trial run on the iPhone goes well, we can’t imagine why they wouldn’t.
In its typical fashion, Apple is not exactly innovating here. Oblong Industries is just one company who specializes in 3D gesture-controlled computing. If all of this sounds reminiscent of the movie Minitory Report it’s no mistake. One of the company’s founders actually designed one of the UIs Tom Cruise uses in the movie.
Rather than being the first to implement the technology, Apple may do what Apple typically does and simply manage to package it in a consumer-friendly, well-designed fashion and then help popularize its use on personal computers.
The significance here is less about Apple doing some new and cool and more about where human-machine interactions are heading in the future.
Source: A Day In the Life of Privacy