Facebook’s well known facial recognition system was limited to users in North America, but it went global over the past couple of days.
A Facebook spokesperson explained via email:
We launched tag suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day. Tag suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. If for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their privacy settings.
When we announced this feature last December, we explained that we would test it, listen to feedback and iterate before rolling it out more broadly. We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them. Tag Suggestions are now available in most countries and we’ll post further updates to our blog over time.
As Graham Cluley of Sophos points out, the onus is on the user to opt out of the system, rather than opt in.
It’s the type of strategy that Facebook typically implements with new features: roll it out and then ask for forgiveness later. Continuing this tactic isn’t not surprising, but it’s sure to upset more than a few users.
So how does the system work? Ultimately, your friends will be prompted with various images that you haven’t yet been tagged in and ask them to tag you.
The result is that some users end up tagged in photos which they purposely avoided tagging themselves in. That may make some feel embarrassed, but the most common emotion is simply surprise.
So it’s a good thing that there’s still a way to opt out if you don’t want to participate. Here’s how: Head on over to your privacy settings page (found here), and click on “customize settings.”
Next, scroll down to the “things others share” area and locate the setting “suggest photos of me to friends” (pictured below).
Once you click on the button, a dialog box (like the one pictured below) will show up. Click on the drop-down that says “enabled,” switch it to “disabled” and then click “okay.”
If the setting is not yet visible for you it means facial recognition is not yet turned on.
While you may not mind being tagged in photos by your friends, the last thing you want is photos that you didn’t want others to see suddenly popping up.