Behind the scenes, Facebook more than likely knows a lot of information about you. Including your surfing habits, what you purchase online, who your friends and family are, and the devices that you use to connect to the Internet.
Even with strict privacy settings, the social media platform is always soaking up as much data about you from all around the Internet as it can.
Additionally, Facebook, somewhat living up to its name, can collect information about your face. And by that we mean facial recognition. It’s a hot button privacy issue and many are – completely justly – concerned about providing such personally identifiable information to a company that has had a checkered past with the privacy of their users.
So what exactly is Facebook’s facial recognition feature?
If you’ve ever uploaded a photo of yourself or your friends, and Facebook “suggests” you tag a specific person in that photo – a person who does so happen to be in the photo – then you’ve encountered Facebook’s facial recognition.
If the feature is enabled for your account, Facebook can build a unique profile of your face based on all the photos and videos on the platform that you’re tagged in. Using all these photos and videos, Facebook creates a detailed template of your face using a variety of data points, which in turn creates a unique identifier for you.
This then allows Facebook’s AI technology to automatically recognise you in photos and video, even if no one has tagged you in that content.
Facebook describes the feature below.
When you turn your face recognition setting on, we create your template and use it to compare to other photos, videos and other places where the camera is used (like live video) to recognize if you appear in that content.
Why does Facebook want to automatically recognise me?
Facebook claims the feature is to help the social experience on their site. Largely this means suggesting who to tag in a photo when you upload one, or letting you know if you appear in a photo uploaded by someone else but were not tagged.
Facebook also claims that it can help with security, letting you know if you appear in someone else’s profile picture to see if that person is trying to impersonate you.
How do I turn off facial recognition?
But if you’re willing to forgo tag suggestions and the ability to see photos of you where you have not been tagged, and you’re perhaps uncomfortable with Facebook building this profile of you based on your physical features, and we can’t really blame you, then yes it can be turned off.
Turning if off is easy. Just head to your Settings and Privacy (the arrow in the top right for desktop users, or clicking the three-lined icon for mobile app users) and then click Settings. Scroll down to Face Recognition, where you can enable and disable the option. You can also click here for the webpage.
Disabling it mean Facebook doesn’t build a template about you, and if it already has one it will delete it. It’s worth remembering that if you disable the face recognition feature, this only affects you. Facebook can still scan your photos to try and identify your friends if they have facial recognition enabled, and you may still receive tag suggestions for those friends.
If you change your mind then the feature can always be re-enabled, at which point Facebook will scan photos you’ve been tagged in to recreate your template.