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Facebook Photos: Opt-Out or Tag You're It

100 million people tag photos each day on Facebook. One month after Facebook launched its facial recognition feature, non-users may still not be aware that Facebook's photo tagging could be broadcasting their faces.

By Ms. Smith on Mon, 01/17/11 - 9:17pm.

Sharing photos is one of the most popular options for Facebook users. More than 100 million people are tagged in photos each day the Facebook blog posted proudly in December when Facebook made photo tagging easier with facial recognition software that suggests people's name to tag in photos. The software groups similar photos together with suggested names of friends who have been tagged previously.  If you love posting pictures, this is a handy feature, but if you didn't want to be tagged? Too bad, so sad as the burden to untag yourself is on you.

Worse, still, if you don't want to be part of Facebook ... this feature alone could more-or-less "force" you into joining. That's because the only way to control if your photographed identity appears on the social networking site, is to have an account that sets privacy settings.

You can customize your privacy settings to disable your name from appearing in suggested tags, however your "friends" can still tag you manually.

Believe it or not, there are still web-savvy users who haven't joined Facebook. In social media, these people are few and far between. When their friends upload a photo on Facebook and tag him or her by email address, Facebook is supposed to send an email letting the identified person know that he or she has been tagged along with a link to the tagged image. At that point, the tagged individual can ask their "friend" who posted the picture to remove the tag or the photo. But those people are more like frenemies, disregarding privacy in the first place, and they may choose not to change a thing. The only official way to remove the tagged name is to join Facebook and setup privacy settings.

What if the photo is not an adult, but of children at family gatherings or birthday parties? Should children be allowed to be tagged in photos? It happens and many parents resent it.

This opt-out privacy procedure seems ridiculous to me. If a person is not on Facebook, they probably don't want to be on Facebook. Making that person register to disable tagging photos with their name is a privacy violation.

Chris Cox, Facebook's VP of facial recognition and photo tagging, doesn't see it that way. He views photo tagging as a privacy enhancement. Cox told CNET that photo tagging notifies a person each time they are tagged when they might not even know the photo was on the Internet. "Once you know that, you can remove the tag, or you can promote it to your friends, or you can write the person and say, 'I'm not that psyched about this photo,'" Cox stated. In order to be alerted each time a user is tagged, a person needs to setup those notifications in their account settings.

After you are notified that someone tagged you in a photo, Facebook allows you to "remove tag." Again, the burden of action is on you. If notifications are sent out, why can't these photo tags be setup as approve tag? What if it is embarrassing or you want the photo removed? You can report that picture. Facebook will only remove images that violate its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The photo will not be removed because it is unflattering or because you asked your friend to remove it but they did not. In that case, the photo stays but Facebook suggests you remove that person as a friend.

An opt-out instead of an opt-in privacy policy is ludicrous, yet why should Facebook change its ways when this is its standard operating procedure? Time and again, Facebook violates privacy first, then fixes the problem after a public outcry. The remedy is often tweaks made to the user's privacy settings. Why can't Facebook make new features available via opt-in instead of making the user opt-out in the privacy settings? Some folks don't mind having their picture online or even being tagged, but don't want their image setup to be visible to everyone. It is the owner of the photo who determines the privacy of that photo and there is no way to limit the visibility of a photo that you didn't upload.

If you are interested, Gawker posted a step-by-step guide of how-to setup Facebook so you will not be humiliated. Even if you and your friends are wise about not over-sharing, Facebook continues to develop questionable features that endanger a user's privacy. According to Sophos, Facebook app developers can now access home addresses and mobile phone numbers of users who grant the app access to personal contact information. Sophos' Graham Cluley warns that Facebook is making it easier for shady app developers and opening new opportunities for identity theft.

Despite all the public outcry over privacy violations in the last year, PBS reported that Facebook has over 500 million active users, 200 million of which are mobile users, all of which spend more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook per month. There are 2 million sites that use Facebook Connect, allowing the social media giant to embed deeper into the Internet infrastructure. PBS predicted an initial public offering may come soon for Facebook.

 

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