back to article Facebook quietly switches on facial recognition tech by default

Facebook has rolled out its facial recognition technology to countries outside of the US, but has switched the feature on by default without telling its users first. UK-based security expert Graham Cluely noted earlier today that Facebook had slotted the tech into the social network. The Mark Zuckerberg-run company started …

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Well, that's no surprise...

I remember reading once, some investigative journalist followed the money trail and job histories of everyone involved with facebook and it all led back to the CIA. The thing was designed from the start for data mining and for compiling lists of known associates. That is why I don't have a facebook account.

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Gold badge

You don't realise the opportunities you're missing ..

.. to SERIOUSLY pollute their data. If you try to wage a tech war you'll lose, they have far more resources, but deception is a very underused tool - it allows you to mount an aggressive defense by going into the offensive.

You're missing out, trust me on this :-).

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Black Helicopters

Well that's no surprise ... it all led back to the CIA

Yawn. The CIA has a budget larger than most countries. They don't need a photo database. They can simply pick a picture at random and change the shape of your face until it fits.

"Ah, but how did they find me?" I hear you ask. Well not by trawling through vast oceans of mindless social networking drivel. That has been the promise of snake-oil merchants ever since the invention of the punched card. In practice, the noise is always too big for the signal and always will be. The noise outnumbers the signal millions to one AND the noise is trying to be a loud as possible whereas the signal is trying to keep a low profile. Real (successful, Mossad-style) intelligence uses old-fashioned information gathering. Similarly, real (El Al-style) airport security puts trained eyes in front of the passengers and waits to see who sweats.

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Paris Hilton

This is a temporary solution.

Now if they can recognize a facial, upload a pearl necklace instead.

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Thumb Up

At least you *can* turn it off...

Thanks for the heads-up! It's not like Facebook bothers to tell us when it makes changes like this. What would I do without El Reg?

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Pint

I think ill leave it on thanks

I was about to go turn it off, after all, someone doing something like that without my consent is bang out of order but then it hit me....

i dont add anyone i dont consider a friend anyway, yeah yeah my feeble 130 odd mates seem very low compared to the 500-800 odd mates some folk have but i trust them all and dont have a problem with FB suggesting my name for a photo of me, the chances are that anyone on my friends list and happens to have a photo of me quite likely actually knows me well anyway so i dont see the problem here

Now the big question is if this is "Friends of friends" or just friends? i maybe missed that bit but if its the former then its getting turned off.

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Pint

Bless.

I'll buy him another beer. You nip round to his house and turn it off for him. All he'll remember tomorrow is there's something dangerous about it, like radiation. He won't turn it back on.

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It's not the only recent feature creep

Did anyone else know that Groups no longer send out an invite, instead your friends can automatically add you to any group they choose and it automatically posts this information to your wall as if *you* chose to join the group.

What's worse, it automatically signs you up to receive emails from the group

http://www.facebook.com/help/new/?faq=147058305366686

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Black Helicopters

Not just facebook

Facebook can crawl the whole net for this searching for profile pics of you on other services.

Let's say, for example you tagged an account on another service under a pseudonym (I prefer sudonym), and uploaded a photo to go with it...

They could then use this to detail a list of services, accounts and pseudonyms for each user tagged on facebook.

No need to make this info available on Facebook, just sell it to whoever wants it...

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Alert

Homeresque subversives

Doesn't adding a real picture of yourself to a pseudonym account make it completely pointless? You should probably onsider using some random pic from the web for your super secret profiles in the future?

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Unhappy

What about.......

What about members of LGBT or similar communities, they might well have two seperate accounts complete with pictures of themselves, that they wish to keep that way.

Being outed by facebook probably isnt ideal.

Ridley

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Big Brother

doubles

I don't care that the facebook client only lets you apply this feature to 'friends' - its what the server does with the info thats the interesting question. For the user its good enough if it can distinguish between, say, a couple of hundred people, but what happens when the server applies it across several million ?

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Anonymous Coward

Across Millions

It doesnt!

Not unless you have millions of friends.

IF FB should in the future tag people in pictures that you have taken but didnt know it would create a mass of problems and law suites that would sink the company, it would be the ultimate stalker tool kit, hop down to a nudist beach or night club, take a few pics, pop them on face book and bobs your uncle, the very least you would get is their name, from a name and location it doesnt take too much to find an address, and there you have it, instant stalker.

FB doesnt do that and i highly doubt they will ever do that for that very reason i mentioned above.

As for the server doing it without telling us, yeah it could be doing it already, it could have been doing it since the site was made, CCTV IS doing it up and down the country but the important bit of information is that they can not sell or pass information to 3rd party companies that can personally identify you, posting a picture and your name without your consent is against EU law, of course FB is in the US but i think the EU would jump at the chance to get some extra cash from something like this if there was a case to answer.

Servers have been doing this for decades, the important bit is that they remove the identifiable part (name, exact address, picture) and sell on the rest. If you dont like the idea of a server doing this then i suggest you never use a credit card or debit card and definitely not those club cards, dont have internet access, mobiles or a telephone line, dont walk up and down some high streets make sure you were born out side of the system and never registered. you would need to live without any utilities in the countryside as well.

If you do any of that and much much more you will be giving a huge amount of data to people which is kept on a server somewhere, if your that paranoid then FB wouldnt be something you would have used in teh first place.

Mountain - Mole Hill (at least as things currently stand)

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Angel

I had an amusing thought

Step 1: Facebook gather enough images with human-supplied tags (see my earlier post) that they have at least one tagged image of 20% of US citizens and 40% of teenagers.

Step 2: Feeding this massive amount of data into their Bayesian system improves it to the point where they can reliably identify 10% of adult US citizens.

Step 3: ................?

Step 4: 10% of US citizens begin to notice that they can get credit more easily than other folks, that they get waved through at airports, that the highway patrol call them 'sir' instead of 'buddy', etc.

.

Of course, some pedant is going to calculate the processing power needed and demonstrate that it isn't possible, but it would be a laugh, wouldn't it?

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Actually, I wonder..

.. what would happen if you started tagging politicians as people that are on the TSA "must get cavity searched" list, like some security researchers.

Oh, so much fun to be had..

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Meh

Total awareness.

There's no better Total Awareness tool than Facebook.

This is the 1984 we were all reading about in class.

Apparently ( check Cryptome ) all transatlantic cables are monitored

Before the telco uses the transport in / out the country.So all you do and all your data going to the american servers invariably land in the lap of those monitoring agencies.

Now they also get access to face recognition data for tens of millions of people ( and their ip ) ?

This is past creepy dudes .. Total Awareness is coming into town.

The net is becoming the tool of control they were dreaming of.

And Facebook is right there on the frontline.

If it wasn't so real and dramatic , id laugh reading this one.

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Anonymous Coward

Mass Hysteria

face recognition has been around for decades, FB could have been doing this since they started the thing, you walk down the high street in any large town or city and im quite sure you will end up on some CCTV camera and thus computer that could be connected to facial recognition software, from what ive read this can happen almost in real time, hell, even many digital camera have facial recognition built it that allows the camera to try and take the best possible picture, ie it makes it easier to take the picture.

This thing with FB is not new, its not some attack on your civil liberties, all it does is allow the person who is posting pictures on their face book to tag you easier, but it only works within your friends list, so i cant post a picture from a beach whilst on holiday and find out all the names of the people topless sunbathing, unless i already know them, it just doesnt and cant work that way.

More information can be found out about you from those bloody necter cards and tesco club cards.

Ok since im going to get downvoted on this one i want someone to tell me how this can be missused, step by step and what could happen. Keep in mind that whilst FB can sell off information about you they can not identify you personally outside of their company and also remember that this is not automatic, it only works on photos uploaded with the person uploading them IF they allow it to happen, IF your on their facebook list and assuming you dont delete the tags.

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Pint

i do get what you guys mean

what happens to that information is anyones guess, the problem i have with making this in to a big deal is that if there is any photos of you that are tagged its quite possible for anyone with access to this information to apply facial recognition and link it to anything else available on the net.

The mere fact that you have a facebook or other social networking account pretty much means your out there for anyone to find and that information is availible to who ever can pay for it.

Store loyalty cards are actually the worst for this, you know, those tesco club cards or even worse those nector cards if you have one of those you will be staggered to find out the level of information they hold on you (if you use it)which is sold to anyone who can pay for it.

my point is, unless you live in a cocoon without any form of digital connection to anything you will be leaving all sorts that will identify you. A friend tagging you is no different to FB automatically tagging you (although the poster needs top confirm them), just as there is no difference in the way you can remove those tags. you either have pictures of you tagged or you dont, you cant stop people uploading pictures of you but you can stop them tagging you, the same applies to FB auto tagging, you are prompted that its happened and given the choice to remove it.

I suppose If your going to have one of these accounts then you have to face up to a number of things, firstly who ever runs the thing will do whatever they like with the information they get from you, doesnt matter what privicy settings you use, data protection only applies to sending personally identifiable information outside the company.

You cant stop people posting pictures of you (although you can stop them tagging you)

If you have a 1000 friends, half of which you dont really know then dont be too supprised that they may turn out to be freaks in which case yes you probably dont want to be identifiable in pictures, of course you could just delete them or add them to exclusion lists

and if you dont like any of that then its best to have not set one up in the first place

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Black Helicopters

Still Disabled for me

I just looked at my settings again. The option is still greyed out for me. Maybe they have given up on me because everything is set to friends only have access. Even those bits I left blank.

I might be OK from the spooks though. Several of my friends have already poisoned the database for me. I have been tagged as various domestic animals, and someone was threatening to put in some pictures of plants and tag them too.

Just everyone do this for all your friends and all will be well. Alternatively, just put in a picture of your (un)favourite politician and tag that as yourself.

For those who suggested that you tag the Zuck, you can't. Only his friends can. You could do it the other way round and tag yourself onto a picture of him.

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Meh

Mmm...

More invasive than Google...

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FAIL

"Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth."

Same story

Same offender

Same shit

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Happy

Sad old git

Happy to be a sad old git with no interest in having mates on Facebook. When you turn into an old git, you may lose your eyesight but your bullshit detector's ability compensates for things like that. Also as you get older you get a smaller circle of closer friends and as we're such a small group we're still be able to use the phone system to arrange stuff.

I've no doubt I will have zero privacy one day, especially with the UK gov in charge I've lost most of it already but I am no hurry to lose the last little bit, so I am happy miss-out on the benefits the wonderful FaceBook offers thanks.

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Big Brother

And....

I knew about this over the weekend, it's not new on me. Am i bothered. not particularly if some people are that paranoid/bothered get your arse off facebook..

If you dont like the change, don't like the big society. Get off and stop moaning

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Unfortunately...

the one config setting I DO want isn't given to you... the setting to prevent people from even tagging you in the first place... it's all very well not suggesting you... or telling you when you've been tagged... but I do NOT want people to tag me in the first place... telling me I've been tagged after the fact is NO good even if I do delete the tag (which I consistently do) as FB have already got the data stored that I was that shape in that image...

rather amusing though is the ridiculous tag spam that unscrupulous FB page owners do to promote their wares... you know... the stuff whre you see one of your friends announced as having been tagged in a picture of some rubbish online tat for sale... and when you examine the picture, you see it's stuffed with very small tags of all the people who've ever made the mistake of liking that webshop FB page

must annoy the hell out of %uckerberg as his servers are filling up with garbage tag data

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Boffin

There is some good news

Which is that, up until now, nobody has demonstrated a facial recognition system that actually works.

Just read this paragraph ("Effectiveness") on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_recognition#Effectiveness

You have to bear in mind that face recognition belongs to the field of human endeavour called 'Artificial Intelligence'. AI is mainly about devising new and creative meanings for the word "success".

The danger is, however, that the problem isn't insoluble as most AI problems are. Given the massive amount of raw data that FB could potentially gather here - billions of face shots each of which has been identified by a human - and the processing power at FB's disposal, they may be able to develop a system with a useful effectiveness. It doesn't have to be 100% right to be useful - spotting 20% of terrorists would be a win. It also doesn't need to be instantaneous - a system which which took 1 day to deliver a verdict would still have its uses.

@Dazzza: The face-recognition software you spoke of in cameras only needs to say 'that is a face, not a tablelamp'. This problem is an order of magnitude simpler than saying 'that is Justin Bieber's face, not Lady Gaga's'. Even so, I bet it would be easy to trick such a camera into focusing on the wrong thing. And what a horrible idea, anyway.

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Boffin

Oh, and...

There's an implication to the existence of face-recognition ('that is a face') software on cameras which might escape some people:

The first step in face recognition will be precisely this - to determine exactly where in the image the face is. If this step fails, the image will simply be rejected. Therefore, uploading pictures of pot plants or domestic animals tagged as people won't work. The noise you're injecting is easily filtered out. You should use faces, but mis-tag them to create effective noise.

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How does it handle all those people who...

...don't use their own photo on their profile?

I have quite a lot of friends who insist on putting pictures of their kids on their profile.

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Boo Hoo

If you don't want people to see your photos, don't put them on the internet.

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Big Brother

This is not good

This "new feature on by default" is very unpleasant. Can I have a option for "No I don't want any new creapy features enabled ever"?

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The Facebook attitude? They don't give a damn.

We have clients who use Facebook - that's the only reason we have accounts ourselves. We've tried to do useful stuff with Groups and Business pages, but the whole thing just doesn't hang together.

An creative writers group I belong to have tried to use Facebook to keep in touch and to share and exchange information - we're creating our own hosted solution because Facebook just isn't up to it.

After many years in IT I can confim Facebook is the most poorly thought out and executed application I've ever come accross (and I've seen quite a few bad ones in 25 years!)

I don't want to have to keep checking Privacy (or any settings) in case the goal posts have been moved again.

Please, someone create the alternative - Facebook would soon die.

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Childcatcher

Not in Canada.

Just checked and it is "Not yet available" to me. Yet....

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Big Brother

In case you did not already know . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . Facebook & Google are CIA Fronts. Check out:http://www.henrymakow.com/social_networking_dupes_the_ma.html

btw . . . . try 'startpage.com' to search

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