Facebook mulls facial recognition for profile pictures

Facebook says it’s considering incorporating user profile pictures into its growing facial recognition database, the company revealed in an update to its data use policy on Thursday.

Reported in Reuters, the technology currently identifies faces to offer “tag suggestions” in newly uploaded photos by comparing them to previously uploaded pictures in which users were tagged, but the new system would automatically add public profile pictures to its recognition database.

According to Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, quoted in the Reuters report, users uncomfortable with facial recognition technology can opt out of the Tag Suggest feature altogether, which means that their public profile picture would not be included in the recognition database.

This news comes at a time when Facebook and other major internet companies are being increasingly scrutinized for their privacy practices, in light of recent leaks showing massive U.S. government electronic surveillance systems.

This facial recognition feature is not included in Europe, as privacy regulators have raised significant concerns around the use of the technology in the social network.

Reported previously in BiometricUpdate.com, the Irish data protection commissioner, along with a German data protection regulator have confirmed that Facebook deleted all European facial recognition data after reviewing source code earlier this year. 

In 2012, Facebook completed the acquisition of Face.com, an Israeli company that has developed a platform for facial recognition and analysis in photos.

Based on a recently-published research report, the global facial recognition market is estimated to grow from $1.92 billion in 2013 to $6.5 billion in 2018, at an impressive CAGR of 27.7%.

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