Facebook tag suggestions draw Connecticut AG's ire

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June 20, 2011

Connecticut

The facial recognition technology used in Facebook's photo tagging feature has caught the attention of Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, who suggested in a letter to the social networking giant that the feature represents an invasion of user privacy. Facebook's "tag suggestions" software recognizes the faces in photo uploads and suggests that the uploader tag, or identify, them in the photo.[1]

Jepsen expressed particular concern about the lack of an opt-in option for the feature -- instead, Facebook forces concerned users to opt-out. He argued in the Wall Street Journal that "unknowing consumers may have their photos tagged and matched using facial recognition software without their express consent, potentially exposing them to unwanted attention..."[2] He went on to ask for a meeting with Facebook to discuss his concerns. Facebook's public response to Jepsen notes that "millions of people have used [the feature] to add hundreds of millions of tags. This data, and the fact that we've had almost no user complaints, suggests people are enjoying the feature and finding it useful."[3]

This isn't the first bad PR Facebook has received over the tag suggestions feature, which the site first rolled out in December. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey also criticized Facebook's decision to make tag suggestions an opt-out feature for users in a May letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So far, the site has shown little inclination to roll back tag suggestions or make it opt-in, leaving open the question of whether concerned government officials will take more serious action.

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