Gotta Watch: Facebook privacy concerns
Facebook is unveiling a new facial recognition feature.
June 8th, 2011
12:58 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Facebook privacy concerns

Facebook has announced that it will begin scanning all users' pictures with facial recognition software, allowing the site to automatically recognize users' faces and identify them in photos. This service, like many of Facebook's previous changes, is automatically active for all users, so the only way to avoid it is to opt out. Thing is, it has the potential to make your face appear tagged in photos that you may not want to be associated with. This isn't the first time Facebook has been under fire for privacy issues. In today's Gotta Watch, we look back at some of Facebook’s past privacy snafus.

Mark Zuckerberg reacts to privacy concerns – Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to a backlash from users after a change in privacy settings made user information public by default. After users complained about their information being distributed to third parties and developers, Zuckerberg implemented changes and simplified privacy settings.

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Do you 'like' Facebook's features? – In 2010, Facebook implemented the then-controversial, now-ubiquitous, "Like" feature on various websites. The "Like" button, now replaced by a "Recommend" button (see it up there on the left hand corner of the screen), raised concerns over privacy issues and outraged many users over whether Facebook should be able to share their information with other websites. Like other Facebook features, it involved a complicated "opt out" process.

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Facebook wants your digits – Earlier this year, Facebook requested users' mobile phone numbers. But why would Facebook need your number? Is it is safe to provide that info to app developers, games and other third-parties?'s John Sutter takes a look.

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Facebook's growing influence – At more than half a billion users, Facebook has created a place for itself at the top of the social media heirarchy.  The company is changing the way information is shared, and at the same time changing our expectations of privacy online. So that begs the question, does it even matter if they violate our privacy, or will we just come back to them no matter how much we feel violated?

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Filed under: Facebook • Gotta Watch • Technology • Uncategorized
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. sammyfromalabamy

    The Answer is simple DO NOT subscribe to Facebook if you are so concerned about you privacy

    June 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bongo

      I'm with you sammyfromalabamy

      June 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bongo

    You wanna my advice .....just discontinue using it & u will be FREE like me & all my Friends....No kidding!!!!!!

    June 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JH

    I just don't post photos of myself on Facebook, so it has nothing to compare other photos to. I only use it to communicate with friends. There ARE smart ways of using the technology, you know. It's not all or nothing.

    June 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WB

    SO sick of hearing about Facebook and Twitter...enough already!

    June 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • zaphod2010

      Amen, WB amen!!!!!!!!
      Talk about narcissistic people!! 😦

      June 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. j

    This should work out well for a friend of mine. His profile picture is a picture of his newborn baby girl. Can't wait for him to get inundated with similar images from all other other newborn babies out there.

    June 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. programmergirl

    I have never used Facebook and have no plans to join. Ever. Their privacy policies are a joke and they treat their customers like cattle, from what I can see. I keep in touch with my friends just fine via phone and E-mail – and our conversations are private. Works for me!

    June 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • m

      Email can be read in transit. This is why banks can't disclose personal information to your email address and choose to have you log in to their protected service if corresponding electronically. Not trying to take away from your point/statement. Just saying.

      June 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. zaphod2010

    This story is so ironic. People go on face book to let everyone who cares (and most probably don't) what they are doing, what they did, what they are going to do, the latest pictures of the little darlings, picture of people who don't even know they end up in a facebook page and they are worried about privacy?
    facebook is probably the number one menace to citilization today. Divorce comes to mind.

    June 8, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      ...Wow. That's a pretty absurd and incredulous thing to say. It's just a website.

      June 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MIzPeg

    when fb puts a profanity filter on, i MIGHT consider going back to it. but we know what that means. a continuation of people using the "f" word, as they are too unschooled to use proper adverbs, and yes, even as a verb.

    June 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • smokey

      oh noes... the f word. 😦

      June 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Sandamana

      Get off your high horse. If you're that prudish about seeing a curse word, then I question why you are interested in Facebook in the first place. You see a lot more ethically questionable content on there than a handful of words that society has deemed "offensive". Besides, Facebook needs to fix bigger issues such as those mentioned in the article (security) before clamping down on users' rights to express themselves through aggravating yet perfectly legal forms of language.

      June 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amy

    Facebook is, by it's nature, SOCIAL. This is a SOCIAL feature. SOCIAL media isn't private. If it were expected to be private, it'd be called PRIVATE media. Google tracks your email habits and gives APIs with access to that data to 3rd party developers (which nobody seems to take issue with). My SOCIAL media = fair game. My email = should be off limits. I have proprietary information going through my email, I do NOT have proprietary information going through my Facebook.

    June 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John

    This isn't new...if you haven't noticed it's been happening for at least 3 months. Everytime I upload photos it comes up with automatic tagging that shows similar faces grouped together and the FB name that it guesses should match. This is NOT a new feature. They must be saying it's new because they got caught doing it "without permission"?

    June 8, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ScottyB

    I totally agree with zaphod2010 – Facebook is a breeding ground for infidelity. I initially liked Facebook – I found some old friends that I had not talked to in 30 years, answered many unanswered questions about where all of my old friends ended up living, etc.

    But then it just became stupid. Mafia Wars, Farmville, Like this, Like that, I just ate tacos, I just took a dump, who gives a %#@!. My wife is TOTALLY addicted to it. I even suspect that she's probably getting a little too intimate with some of her old high school friends. She stays up sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning typing unknown messages to unknown people on Facebook. She even has it setup so that I (her husband) cannot even see that she has an account (she added me to her blocked list). Pretty nice, right?

    The other annoying thing about Facebook are the old friends that are only there to try to sell you something. ENOUGH already!

    I'm out...

    June 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      Great comment, ScottyB. I've had problems with my husband and "online infedility." It hasn't been on Facebook (that I know of), but ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER...AND THE LONGER IT GOES ON...THE FURTHER IT GETS! These social sites (ANY social site) is just another breeding ground for this kind of crap!

      June 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      That, or your wife is going to cheat on you no matter what.

      Guns don't kill people; bullets do.

      Facebook doesn't make your spouse cheat; upset spouses who aren't happy in their relationships do. They will do it on Facebook, on the phone, or in the office.

      June 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ed

    Once you realize that you are nothing but a target for an ad agency you will ditch fb like a bad point of fact, it IS a bad habit...

    June 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim456

    Just use their standard avatar graphics. They can scan that

    June 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Adeniha

    @ScottyB... Facebook is a breeding ground for infidelity only for those prone to being unfaithful. Someone who is committed to their marriage could have throngs of thongs parading in front of them via Facebook or otherwise and aside from a few head turns, nothing would come of it. If your wife is hiding something from you, don't blame the tool with which she's using to hide it... blame your wife.

    June 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    John mentioned this in a comment above, but it's not new. I post hundreds of candids of friends, have seen this feature in action, and have found it immensely helpful. Also, this article ramps up the scare-factor by equivocating and failling to mention that FB only suggests to add the tags. After uploading photos, it tries to save you time in the tagging process by attempting to ID who of your friends are in the photos and then giving you the opportunity to tag them if you want. It doesn't just start tagging photos on its own. Also, just as I could decide not to tag a friend who looked silly in a photo via the old system, I can ignore the FB facial-recognition suggestion and still not tag people.

    This Chicken Little mentality is honestly kind of funny. Anybody who is halfway tech-literate has no problem with this. Also, for some of the generalized FB complaints, you can turn off all Farmville/MafiaWars/etc. notifications from your newsfeed permanently, so your feed is nothing but legitimate news from your friends.. Furthermore, FB doesn't breed infidelity, it might provide an avenue or a temptation for somebody who is already weak or looking, but that's it. Finally, nothing but targets for ads? FB doesn't ask for money, so it has to do SOMEthing. Are you seriously incapable of ignoring its minimally invasive display ads? How do you possibly handle TV commercials? Maybe I've been blessed with friends who aren't complete tools, but none of the 1000+ people I am in touch with on FB ever solicits me for anything, sends me App requests ad nauseum, or spews endless trivialities as stauses. If you are inundated with problems like that, blobk those people from your news feed permanently, or just unfriend the losers.

    It sounds like too many people are utilizing FB with some bizarre expectations. It exists for you to share, communicate, connect, and sure, sometimes show off a little bit. There's almost nothing private about it. If you don't want to use it to share your photos/exploits, and keep in touch with faraway friends or plan activities with local ones, then it's not for you; Stop crying. #rant

    June 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Damn straight!

      June 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricardo

      Great points Bob I agree with you 100%

      June 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
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