The “suggest photos of me to friends” option on Facebook is actually an elaborate ruse designed to biometrically scan your face into a database of 1.2 billion users, so that it can help your friends tag you in photos from last night’s pub crawl that you’d much rather not be made public. It’s not a flawless system – facial recognition systems usually rely on a certain feature as the basis for comparison and identification. Facebook uses the space between your eyebrows, which, though frequently very accurate, does pose frustration for identical twins or doppelgängers.
Once, Facebook suggested I tag a painting of Chinese president Xi Jinping as my 65-year-old aunt. Needless to say, my aunt is not the president of China (at least, as far as I’m aware).
Why does this matter? It means that if you have ever uploaded a profile picture, and neglected to navigate through Facebook’s labyrinthine privacy settings to disable the deceptively innocuous function of letting Facebook recognise your face, your physical features are currently sitting on a byte somewhere, ready to be used by advertisers, buyers, and the government.
Though many consider Facebook’s relentless pursuit of more information unbelievably insidious, I personally am getting a little fed up with all the fuss about Facebook privacy. If this summer has taught us anything, it is that apparently none of us are exempt from surveillance by the United States government. In fact, we are probably, in some way, shape or form, watched by almost every government in the world.
If PRISM – the National Security Agency (NSA)’s secret surveillance program – has been violating our privacy for ages, why do we care if Facebook releases our ‘liked’ pages for money?Facebook is a business: in order to keep itself afloat without charging a registration fee, it needs to sell information about our preferences to advertisers and marketers, which in turn use it to monitor trending topics in the hopes of getting an edge on their market and making a profit.
Why must people get so riled up about what is essentially a cold business deal? Admittedly, the function is a little creepy. It’s quite unnerving to know that each time I ‘tag’ a photo on Facebook, its facial recognition technology leans more about what my friends and I look like.