Facebook has responded to a mounting criticisms of the automatic introducion of facial recognition features into users Facebook accounts.
The social networking giant explained how the new ‘tag suggestions’ feature works in an official Facebook blog post:
"When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software – similar to that found in many photo editing tools – to match your new photos to other photos you’re tagged in," wrote Facebook engineer Justin Mitchell.
"We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos," he added.
Privacy concerns were first raised when the technology first debuted in the US. While users elsewhere in the world could see the privacy controls which would enable disabling the feature, the ability to disable it wasn’t possible until the service launched.
Sophos technology consultant Graham Cluley, writing on the Naked Security blog, warned that that as the service launched worldwide, users were being opted in automatically.
"Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth," wrote Cluley, advising Facebook users how to disable the suggest tags feature.
Keen to head off another round of privacy complaints, Facebook released a statement explaining: "When we announced this feature last December, we explained that we would test it, listen to feedback, and iterate before rolling it out more broadly."
"We should have been more clear with people during the rollout process when this became available to them," the Facebook spokesperson admitted.
"Tag suggestions are now available in most countries and we’ll post further updates to our blog over time."