Starting today, Facebook users will have more control over the ways the social network uses facial recognition software to analyze their photos.
The company announced the change in a press release Tuesday written by artificial intelligence research lead Srinivas Narayanan. Previously, Facebook only allowed users to enable or disable whether the social network used facial recognition software to suggest tagging them in photos. With the new expanded setting, users have the capability to toggle face recognition on or off for a wider array of uses, most of which Facebook did not specify.
“[The setting] provides an easy on or off switch for a broader set of uses of face recognition, such as helping you protect your identity on Facebook,” Narayanan wrote.
In a help section linked from the settings menu, Facebook provides a clearer picture of what happens when you turn Face Recognition off. The company states that it will “delete your face recognition template” which it uses to track your face across the platform.
“We won’t use face recognition to suggest that people tag you in photos,” Facebook clarifies. “This means that you’ll still be able to be tagged in photos, but we won’t suggest tags based on a face recognition template.”
The changes go into effect today for all Facebook users worldwide and will apply to new Facebook users as well. People still operating under “Tag Suggestions,” Facebook’s shorthand for facial recognition used to recommend tagging a user in photos, will see a notice in their News Feed notifying them of the change. Tag Suggestions will no longer be available.
Last month, the FTC imposed a $5 billion fine on Facebook for deceptive privacy practices, including turning on “Tag Suggestions” by default for new users while suggesting Facebook’s facial recognition was opt-in.
The default mode of the new setting is opt-in, according to the post: “If you do nothing, face recognition will remain off for you.”
Narayanan attempted to polish Facebook’s spotty recent privacy record in the first line of his blog post: “Facebook has always given you control over whether we use face recognition technology to recognize you in photos.”
But for nearly two years, some people had broader controls over how Facebook used their faces than others. The social network bestowed the on-off feature for facial recognition on “some people” in December 2017, according to the post, likely in a beta test.
To clear up suspicions about how Facebook is using facial recognition systems, Narayanan added that Facebook does not share facial data with third parties nor does it sell the technology.
Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment.