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Facebook stops scanning faces by default

It'll also require more explicit consent.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 3, 2019
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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is directly tackling complaints about its facial recognition practices for photo tagging. It's expanding access to its Face Recognition privacy setting (introduced in 2017) to all users, and will stop scanning faces by default. Those who don't have the setting will have to explicitly grant permission for it. You'll get a notice when the feature is available, but nothing will happen if you ignore the alert. Friends can still tag you by hand -- they just won't get automatic suggestions based on face recognition.

There may be reasons to turn facial recognition on. Facebook warned that Photo Review, which alerts you when someone uploads a photo of you even if you aren't tagged, also switches off if you decline or disable the Face Recognition setting. It's potentially useful if someone uploads a photo of you without consent.

The tweaks also makes the settings update clearer and lets you change them in the notice, rather than the having to visit a separate screen. All changes are applicable worldwide.

The new approach may be welcome by people concerned that Facebook was using facial recognition too aggressively. It may be too little too late, though. Facebook recently lost its bid to block a lawsuit alleging that it captured millions of users' face data for its tag permissions feature without permission, allegedly violating Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act. These latest changes don't address previous behavior -- Facebook could still have to compensate up to 7 million people if it loses.

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