Utter irresponsibility from Facebook

Facebook does it again. And this time they’ll probably end up killing people*.

Graham Clueley over at naked security blog has some excellent practical advice on how to switch off facial recognition in Facebook, which was rolled out enabled by default and without any notification across non-US systems earlier this week.

If you give a monkeys’ about your own or your family’s personal security or, frankly, if you don’t understand why ‘facial recognition by default’ might be a bad idea I strongly recommend you go and adjust your privacy settings. NOW. (I use the term ‘personal security’ deliberately, as I believe this move is so fundamentally stupid and dangerous that it transcends ‘privacy’ – though clearly Facebook’s utter disregard for, and failure to properly consider, privacy is writ large in this decision.)

Sophos’ general guide on ‘Facebook Security Best Practices‘ is also pretty good. Worth reading and applying, especially if you are new to social networks.

*With half a billion+ people registered on the system, switching on facial recognition by default has just turned Facebook into a stalker’s paradise – not that it wasn’t halfway there already.

Permanently, publicly available ‘CCTV footage’ of your life, captured through the lenses of other people’s cameras, provided for profit fun by those wonderful folks at Facebook…

This is so staggeringly irresponsible, it is hard to believe Facebook has made even the most basic of risk assessments of this latest ‘business decision’. Or, if it has, someone has decided that risking lives is acceptable (or disavowable) enough to turn another buck.

Facebook is now a far more effective tool tool for – in no particular order – abusive ex-partners, people traffickers, bullies, private investigators and other more or less regulated snoopers, the security services or secret police of any country (not just the US, of course), bounty hunters, violent fundamentalist homophobes, gossip-y tabloid-y journalists (though it’s often hard to distinguish these days), organised criminals, blackmailers, etc. to hunt people down.

Should Facebook be held responsible for what happens next? Yes, of course – because they haven’t given you any sort of meaningful choice. They may argue (legal) clauses in (legal) contracts and ‘the right to opt out’, but this sort of stuff is more along the lines of constructing/destroying a social contract – not just a commercial one.

This single move shows them to be either arrogant, dangerously irresponsible idiots or evil greedy bastards – or maybe both. You decide.

Don’t forget, this isn’t about what you’ve decided to upload or tag. This is Facebook saying it thinks it’s spotted you (how reliably, it remains to be seen – but the more reliable it is, the more dangerous it becomes):

“Here she is! And here… and here. Ooh, and look who she’s with… Hmm, I recognise that place…”

Get the picture?

Other references:

Facebook quietly switches on facial recognition tech by default‘, The Register, 7/6/11.

The Offline Social Network‘ by Hungry Beast.

And thanks to Bill Thompson for the heads-up… on Facebook.

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