Facebook has hit the headlines yet again this week after rolling out a facial recognition tool which automatically recognises the people in photos, and then gives users the option of tagging them.
The feature has been available in the USA for six months – but since launching in Europe last week it has caused outcry among some, who suggest that, yet again, those evil Facebook programmers are out to invade our privacy.
To be honest I’m not quite sure I get what the problem is. It seems to me that the conspiracy theorists are just low on material at the moment.
For me, any tool which is added to makes things like uploading photos quicker and easier can only be a good thing, and I can’t wait to try it out.
Remember the days of ‘simple upload’ when you had to upload 5 photos at a time and albums had a maximum capacity of 60 images?
It was very frustrating – as is tagging friends in photos.
There are so many photos of me and my friends on holiday and at weddings etc that I would quite like to see, but can’t be bothered to go through everyone’s albums to find.
Same as I know that there are loads of photos of friends in my albums, who would love to be tagged, but don’t know the photos are there. And I certainly don’t have the time or the inclination to go through and tag them all myself!
This automatic facial recognition system will no doubt make things quicker and easier for all involved.
So what’s the problem?
From what I’ve read:
- It only recognises your friend’s faces (and you know what they look like already, surely?!)
- It won’t recognise complete strangers who happen to be in the background, or people who you are not direct friends with on Facebook already
- It won’t go through and tag all existing photos linked to your profile – only ones you upload from now on (and then you can choose whether or not to tag them)
- Users who are tagged will receive a notification and can then untag themselves if they wish
- And perhaps most importantly – you can turn the feature off! That means that your friends will have to continue to manually tag you in every photo
Don’t know how to turn it off? Check out instructions here.
This sort of technology has been around for years (there is even an exisiting app for Facebook which was launched in 2009), and I just simply don’t understand why it is an issue for Facebook to be using it to make their users’ experience more efficient.
What do you think?
Is Facebook invading our privacy or are people making a big deal out of nothing?
I read with interest earlier in the week the announcement of a new social networking site which is launching – Path.
Referred to by some as ‘the anti-social network’ and by itself as ‘the personal network’ it promises to limit friends to just 50 people.
On its blog Path says;
‘Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself.’
Bit full on for my liking, but I get where they’re coming from.
On Twitter there is a constant pressure that you need to impress – you have to be funny and intelligent, and source amazing articles, and engage with strangers without sounding pushy or false. Everyone who’s on it wants to be an industry ‘expert’ and, no matter how many blog articles there are saying that ‘it’s quality not quantity’ when it comes to followers, there is still that pressure that you should have more.
Then there’s Facebook – where you have a constantly updated stream of boring ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ or ‘I hate my boyfriend’ status updates and over-shares. Plus, you have the constant de-tagging of hideous photos to worry about, which instantly appear on your profile even if you don’t want them to.
The idea of only having 50 of your closest friends is very appealing.
But it does make me wonder if it will truly work.
It is very easy to limit the size of your existing social networks – you simply IGNORE the random friend requests from old school friends and the weirdo you met down the pub last Saturday.
But the fact is that the majority of people don’t ignore them.
Perhaps its people’s natural curiosity – they like spying on their ex and seeing how much weight they’ve put on, they enjoy nosing on the school ground bully and seeing that she’s now an unemployed chav with a bad taste in bomber jackets.
On Twitter – people like the idea that they are being followed. Indeed even the name ‘followers’ makes you feel special, like some kind of cult leader, or perhaps Jesus.
So, for these reasons I’m intrigued.
Has Path got staying power or will people get bored of just seeing the same 50 people?
The fact its launching on iPhone I see as a good thing – iPhone owners already feel slightly holier-than-thou, so the fact they will now have their very own social network (for the time being at least) will no doubt only serve to be benificial. And a great way to test if the concept works.
And besides, with social networking heavyweights behind the project including former Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin, Macster co-creator Dustin Mierau and Napster co-founder Shawn Fannin I have a feeling that they won’t take fail as an option.
What do you think – are you going to sign up to Path? Or would you miss the banalities of other networking sites?
Last week saw ‘Quit Facebook Day,’ a day set up by a Canada-based duo Matthew Millan and Joseph Dee, who wanted to get the masses to quit the social networking site after the controversy surrounding its privacy rules.
Unsurprisingly, the day was a huge flop with only 33,000 users reportedly quitting.
But why? Especially when so many people have been complaining about the site?
The fact is Facebook has become an integral part of modern life. Just like you couldn’t imagine living without a mobile phone, most people now can’t imagine living without Facebook.
Think about how many times your phone breaks, or the signal leaves more to be desired. You don’t turn round and say ‘well, that’s it I’m quitting mobile phones.’ Hell, most people won’t even go through the hassle of changing service providers!
Facebook is the same. Yes, it has its negatives but they are far out-weighed by its positives and despite the rise of other social networking sites such as diaspora I still don’t think Facebook will fall from grace for a very long time.
I’ve had my profile for 6 years and keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. It’s used for arranging events, sending birthday wishes, making friends, joining new activities and god knows how many other things.
Socially, it’s become a lifeline and the idea of having to start all over again elsewhere is quite frankly, not something I can be bothered with.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’ve just got back from a university reunion in sunny (yes, really) Preston, Lancs and Facebook was integral in organising it. Where else can 14 people liaise so easily – and for free?
And to be honest – is the privacy thing that hard?
Of course online privacy is incredibly important but I feel strongly that it’s the user’s responsibility to ensure that they have their settings how they want.
Social networking sites are essentially a business and what they sell is YOUR personal details and access to your likes and dislikes.
The owners of the sites have no commercial interest in making things too easy. As long as the privacy options are there they have covered their responsibility, it’s up to us to utilise them.