Social media giant Facebook is pushing facial recognition as a way to safeguard online identities, but is instead raising concerns over privacy in several sectors.
According to the New York Times, Facebook's facial recognition technology works by analyzing users' photos and generating a string of numbers called a 'template' that's unique to each user. When photos and videos are posted to the social network, the unnamed faces are scanned and matched to names and templates stored in a database.
A Facebook spokeswoman claims that if the system cannot find a match, it doesn't identify the unknown face, adding that the facial data is deleted immediately.
While it's possible to turn facial recognition off, critics still find the software problematic, since it scans every image- even of people who have opted out of the feature.
Facebook has also applied for several patents that use the technology. One aims to tailor ads by analyzing users' facial expressions via their phone camera. Another checks shoppers' online profile and uses it to determine a 'trust level'.
This Big Brother-style approach to facial data is worrisome, especially since Facebook doesn't exactly have the best track record for honesty, or for keeping user data safe.
Fortunately, a lot of groups recognize this and are moving to protect biometric data. The company is facing a class-action suit filed by Illinois consumers for violating a state biometric privacy law, and could stand to lose money and what's left of their reputation if it moves forward.