Last week on the IoT Podcast, we discussed the news of Facebook ceasing the use of facial recognition across the photos its users upload. From our perspective, this was a big win for the Facebook user community.
Why? Users had no control over whether Facebook would scan photos uploaded by others and then tag all users it could recognize in those photos.
But there are other perspectives that we didn’t consider.
Lisa called into our IoT Podcast hotline and we shared her voicemail on this week’s show because it involves one of those other important perspectives.
Lisa understands the privacy implications of Facebook’s facial recognition, but she’s now lost a feature she valued as someone who is visually impaired. She relied on the feature to help her easily determine when photos of her Facebook friends are posted. Without the automatic tagging supplied through the facial recognition service, she may now miss photos of her friends. As a result, she’d like to see the feature still available in some way so when her friends post photos, she’ll be made aware of the images.
I sympathize with Lisa’s situation. As a whole, we should be using technology to encourage inclusivity and usability for all users.
There may be a way to “not throw out the baby with the bathwater”, as Lisa says. But it will be challenging.
One possible solution is that Facebook could continue offering the facial recognition and photo tagging service, but only for users who opt-in. Even here there’s a catch though. What if you’ve opted in and you’re not even aware that your photo has been taken by some random stranger? You’d be identified and tagged in a photo that you have no control over, in that case, because you didn’t know your photo was being taken.
Perhaps there’s a way for Facebook users to activate an “incognito mode” that disables automatic photo tagging at user-defined times or locations. That might mitigate circumstances where users specifically don’t want to be automatically tagged in photos.
As we noted in our discussion, we don’t have all of the answers here. But this is an important discussion to have and we’re appreciative that Lisa started it. If you have ideas or want to contribute to the topic, chime and leave your comments below.
To hear Lisa’s commentary, as well as our full conversation on the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: