Facebook Rolls Out Facial Recognition Feature
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
For more on this, we're joined by Sharon Gaudin, senior writer for Computerworld. Hiya.
M: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, what are the concerns of the privacy advocates that somebody's name should be identified with the photo?
M: What they're telling me is, it's a matter of privacy. It's a matter of high creepy factor, if you will - having a company that can identify you simply by your face. They don't need any other documentation or data about you. The advocates are saying it's just out of line to go this far.
SIEGEL: Because, in effect, once pictures are associated with a name on Facebook, there would be some record of the biometric data of your face.
M: Exactly. And it's going to be a large, large database. Think how many users Facebook has - anywhere from reportedly 500 million to 700 million users worldwide. So that's a lot of identification going on around the world.
SIEGEL: But think of how many of them misspell things or stick their tongues out when they're having their picture taken, or do things that might throw a wrench into all this. How accurate is this system?
M: Well, we're going to have to wait and see. Facebook started testing it in really small groups last December - pretty quietly. And just last week, they came out and said that they're going to be rolling this out, and they're collecting data. And we're just going to have to see how it goes.
SIEGEL: This isn't the first privacy concern that's been voiced to Facebook. How do they typically respond to questions like this?
M: Now, privacy advocates would rather have you be out of it, and then go in and turn it on if that's what you want. But Facebook says look, we turn it on for everybody because Facebook is about sharing, and we're trying to make it easier to share.
SIEGEL: Do we have any idea how many false positives it might generate - how many people look enough like your friend Joe that they'll describe that as your friend Joe?
M: Ah, we don't know yet. I guess we're going to have to wait and see. But you know, I was saying to friends just this weekend, I hope there aren't a lot of people who look just like me doing really embarrassing things in their pictures.
SIEGEL: Well, Sharon Gaudin, thank you very much for talking today.
M: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Sharon Gaudin, senior writer for Computerworld, spoke to us from Portland, Maine.
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