Social media giant Facebook is now opening up its facial recognition technology to all users and will be discontinuing the “tag suggestions” feature on pictures, despite a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg’s company over intrusive use of facial recognition without user consent.
Reuters reports that social media giant Facebook Inc is opening its facial recognition technology to all users and providing them with an option to opt-out from the feature. The company also plans to discontinue a related feature called “Tag Suggestions” which gave users the option to have Facebook suggest that their friends tag them in photos without giving them control over usage of the facial recognition technology.
The facial recognition setting has been available to some users since December 2017 and has additional functions such as letting account owners know if their profile picture is being used by someone else. People who agree to use the new setting will still have tag suggestions generated automatically about them. Facebook’s facial recognition tech has been at the center of multiple privacy-related lawsuits since as early as 2015.
Breitbart News reported in August that a federal appeals court rejected Facebook’s argument to block a class-action lawsuit this week which could see the firm facing billions in potential damages. The lawsuit has been moving through the court system since 2015 when Facebook users in Illinois sued the firm for violating the states’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by automatically collecting and identifying individuals in photographs posted on the social media site.
The court stated in its decision: “We conclude that the development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. Similar conduct is actionable at common law.” The American Civil Liberties Union supported the court’s ruling with ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler stating: “This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology. The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises a chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale. Both corporations and the government are now on notice that this technology poses unique risks to people’s privacy and safety.”
“We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” Facebook said last month. Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois, commented on the case stating: “BIPA’s innovative protections for biometric information are now enforceable in federal court. If a corporation violates a statute by taking your personal information without your consent, you do not have to wait until your data is stolen or misused to go to court. As our General Assembly understood when it enacted BIPA, a strong enforcement mechanism is crucial to hold companies accountable when they violate our privacy laws. Corporations that misuse Illinoisans’ sensitive biometric data now do so at their own peril.”