Sophos, the Internet security company, says that social networking site Facebook has begun using its controversial facial recognition software in Europe - without bothering to tell its users. Now it not only knows who your friends are, it knows what they look like - and you, And it's all done by default. Martyn Warwick reports.
Now, I'm sure lots of apologists of young Master Zuckerberg's excesses are going to say, "So what? It's only a logical extension of what the site does anyway and it'll make things easier for users." Well that's certainly what Facebook is claiming. It freely acknowledges that its users add more than 100 million photo tags every single day and adds that the process is dull, repetitive and time-consuming. Thus the facial recognition software 'helps' subscribers to avoid 'the boredom' of tagging names to photos.
However, there's potentially so much more to it than that. Let's take the UK as a European case in point.
Last week, with all the usual bally-hoo and over-the-top fanfares, Joanna Shields, the VP of Facebook Europe proudly announced that half of the UK's population has signed up to the site.
That's 30 million people who will be exposed to a secret software program that, by default remember, automatically scans through every picture that is uploaded to Facebook and checks/collates them against a massive database of names and other personal ID details kept on servers in the US where the writ of our data protection legislation does not run and where we have absolutely no control over who accesses the data or if and when Facebook hands stuff over to various government agencies.
Now multiply that across the 27 member states of the EU and then add in the rest of Europe and you begin to get some idea of just how big and intrusive this could be.
Meanwhile, this system has been up and working in the US since December. So the position now is that the iPhone GPS system tracks where you are and Facebook knows what you and all your acquaintances look like. I wonder what's next?
Sophos describes Facebook's latest wheeze as "creepy" and it is, not least because this 'service' as it is cynically described is opt-out not opt-in and is yet more evidence that Facebook continues by stealth to undermine online privacy. But then Zuckerberg believes privacy is no longer a 'social norm'. Except for him and ilk, of course.
Remember how angry Eric Schmidt was when he was Googled and members of the lumpen proletariat found out where he lived and what his salary was? But then, 'what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander' seems not to apply in 'special cases'. And Mark Zuckerberg is a special case alright.
*The Facebook Man, by Maxo
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