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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Should I be scared about the new Facebook Face Recognition?

It really annoys me when sensationalist articles are written designed to scare people about technology. Nine times out of ten it's easy to see that the issue is nothing to wet your pants over, so long as you ignore the overuse of exclamation marks !!!! and you don't let the words "privacy" and "security" give you heart palpitations.

The latest scaremongering is about Facebook's Face Recognition Photo Tagging.
WAIT!!! Stop running and screaming like a girl (really, you need to lift the knees more and the voice less), it's ok, really and truly.

"But I don't want random strangers tagging me in photos"

They can't. Only your Facebook friends can tag you. So unless you have Facebook friended Slimy John Who-Jerks-Off-Over-Blurry-Photos-Of-Fully-Clothed-Strangers Smith, you're ok. And if you have, then you have problems even I cannot fix.

"But I don't want any of my Facebook friends to post photos of me and to be automatically tagged without either of us realising"

Bravo. You show common sense and a healthy respect for your (freak-out phrase coming, be prepared) online privacy. Which is why I'm sure you disabled the photo application years ago. No?? You mean you want photos on your Facebook page? If you want photos on your profile, you have to allow tagging. You can remove the tag as soon as it goes up and that photo can't be tagged with your name again. If you have your settings set to only allow your friends to see your photos and photos tagged with your name, that is still the case - nothing in your privacy settings has been changed.
If you're not bothered by being tagged so long as it's not automatic, you're still a-ok. The new face recognition tool is only a suggestion. Your friend still has to click your name to accept the suggestion. And your name has to already be tagged in photos enough times that Facebook can associate your features to your name. In which case, you've been happy up to this point with being tagged, so stop whimpering.
If your friend is constantly accepting the suggestion that Buster the bulldog's ass looks like your face, your issue is with your "friend" as they have obviously tagged their dog's butt with your name enough times to encourage Facebook to think it's you.
Or maybe you do look like Buster's ass in which case, stop allowing photos to be taken of yourself and consult a plastic surgeon.

"But if Facebook can recognise my face doesn't that mean they have my image stored in a database somewhere?"

Yes. And Mark Zuckerberg has it wallpapering his million dollar office and he sniffs a lock of your hair he stole from your hairdresser's floor last month.
The reality is, if you have ever posted a photo of yourself online anywhere, including Facebook, it's on a database somewhere. That's what the internet means. If you don't like it, go back to printing your photos. But before you do, watch that Robin Williams film One Hour Photo where the guy at the printing shop makes extra copies from the negatives people bring in and keeps them for himself and his sick little fantasies. Sickos have been around forever. They weren't born with the internet.
And seriously, is that grainy photo up your snotty nostril of you draped across your equally drunk mate, really going to interest a criminal mastermind hacker who might be able to sneak past the Fort Knox security of the Facebook cloud storage servers? And will they search through the millions of images, ignoring Miranda Kerr breastfeeding and Blake Lively having sex, just to find your photo? And then sell it to Pepsi to use in their international marketing campaigns without paying you a penny? Yes??? Ok, again, you have issues beyond my capabilities.

"But I'm still irrationally scared"

Shhh, shhh, shhh. It's going to be alright. There, there. Go into your settings and opt out of allowing your friends to have your name come up as a photo tag suggestion. They'll just have to cope with tagging photos of you the old fashioned way using brain recognition. Be aware that this will involve them having to access the database of images they have of you in their head. Who knows what muck they will have to wade through before identifying the image of you. But if that makes you feel safer, it's worth it, right?
After that lengthy process they will then have to go through the arduous task of clicking "tag" which could take hours. Then the hard manual labour continues when they have to type the beginning letter of your name before the name recognition kicks in and Facebook says "Do you mean your good friend John Scaredy-Cat Smith?" and they say "Nay, Facebook, I shall shun thy devil influenced automated suggestions and type letter by letter the whole name myself".
Days later, your photo will have been painstakingly tagged by hand the way the pilgrims did it in the days of yore.

"But Professor Brian Lovell of the Advanced Surveillance Team at the University of Queensland is concerned"

What? Who?
According to a article, the professor is concerned that photos of people before they went into witness protection could be used to tag photos of them after they have gone into witness protection and blow their cover.

*pain, extreme pain* nnneeeeeerrrrrrr.

*bangs head on wall several times*

I'm betting, in fact GUARANTEEING that the professor doesn't have a Facebook account and he thinks LOL means "lots of love".
He needs to read this post of mine and Witness Protection For Dummies and the chapters titled "Yes, you have to leave your friends behind, including your Facebook ones, or it doesn't work" and "Disguises are kinda important".


I don't think you should be on Facebook.

By Monique Kowalczyk

So what do you want to know?

Please don't go basing your PhD Thesis on anything I write here.
The information I provide comes with no guarantee of accuracy, and I'm just as likely to provide the most entertaining answer, as I am the factually correct answer.

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