I'm a little bit confused as to why so many people are up in arms about Facebook's new facial recognition tool.
I guess it is kind of scary when you consider the huge amount of personal data that Facebook has accumulated on over 600 million individuals (and in many cases their pets as well) over the time it has been active. But isn't that kind of the point? We all sign up to social networking sites fully in the knowledge that our personal information is going to be in the public domain. And then we moan when it is.
However we set our privacy settings Facebook will still have all the information that we choose to put on the site stored somewhere on their servers. And also information about us we don't upload ourselves - images our friends have uploaded and tagged, links to things we "might like" posted on our walls by others, places our friends have checked us in to and a wealth of other data. Whether or not we choose to share this information with family, friends, friends of friends or everyone, Facebook still has it all – everything about us.
I agree that Facebook should really have allowed people to opt in to the facial recognition tool but I can't see what difference it makes that they didn't. Your face is on display every time you walk down the street sans paper bag. Most people seem happy for their friends to tag them in photos so why aren't they happy for Facebook to suggest to these friends that you are tagged? Even if you turn the technology off in your settings, Facebook still has the capability of being able to scan their enormous collection of uploaded images for your face should they, for any reason, decide to do it against your will. Facebook's photograph collection is expanding at about 1000 pictures per second… Odds are there are pictures of you on Facebook that you don't even know where taken. Possible in the background of someone else's holiday snaps or maybe snowboarding past a posing couple on a mountain piste in Canada.
I think what people are really objecting to is the realisation that technology can now pick their face out from a crowd - and they've unwittingly submitted hundreds of photos to the system that can do it. Suddenly the anonymity that the internet used to provide is gone. You can no longer hide behind the barrage of your flame–war or lurk in the dark corners of a forum. Over the past few years Facebook has slowly integrated into everything you do online… Console games ask you for your Facebook credentials so you can automatically post status updates on the levels you have completed. Other social sites ask you to link your Facebook account to them (Habbo Hotel for instance) and PC World's news site, only yesterday asked me to log in using my Facebook details so I could post something pretty much the same as this post – I refused which is why I am posting it here. Apparently even adult sites allow you to 'like' the things they specialise in – I can't think why anyone would be happy to post that sort of information about themselves on Facebook but the option is there.
In other words Facebook has managed, since it's launch in 2004, to sneakily infringe on our lives, bit by bit, and now boasts an gigantic database of pretty much every thing we do, everyone we know and all of the things we like. How powerful could that information be in the wrong hands? But I think the hardest point for everyone to accept is that we have all created this database ourselves!