Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen wants meet with Facebook over privacy concerns linked to the photo-recognition system that’s the basis of the tag suggestions feature.
Facebook’s Manager of Public Policy Communications, Andrew Noyes, said in an email:
We have been in contact with Attorney General Jepsen’s office and are eager to provide clarification about tag suggestions and answer any questions he may have. We launched tag suggestions to assist people when they are tagging their friends in photos. We announced the tool in December 2010, and it was covered widely. Now that we have begun to roll this out more widely, we are notifying people of its availability, and how it works. Tag suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. No action is taken on a person’s behalf, and all suggestions can be ignored. if for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested to their friends, they can disable the feature in their privacy settings. Since last December, we’ve been gradually rolling out the same feature and millions of people have used it to add hundreds of millions of tags. This data, and the fact that we’ve had almost no user complaints, suggests people are enjoying the feature and are finding it useful. For those who don’t, we made turning off tag suggestions easy and explained how to do so on our blog, in our help center, and within the interface.
Jepsen, in a statement reported in the Wall Street Journal, says that consumers need to know Facebook’s technology is linking their faces with other user information:
The lack of an opt-in process for Facebook users is troubling because unknowing consumers may have their photos tagged and matched using facial recognition software without their express consent, potentially exposing them to unwelcome attention and loss of privacy.
Facebook started rolling out the new photo tagging feature in December with almost no complaints, the company states. In an email to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook said it is “eager to provide clarification about tag suggestions and answer any questions he may have.”
The automatic, opt-in nature of tag suggestions in a sore point for lawmakers. Last week Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, criticized Facebook’s decision to make the feature automatic.
For the record, users can opt out of the feature if privacy is a concern — here are directions to opt-out of the tag suggestions feature on Facebook.
How concerned are you about your privacy on Facebook?