Facebook ends facial recognition photo tagging suggestions

Facebook ends facial recognition photo tagging suggestions
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Facebook plans to discontinue its photo-tagging suggestions setting, the company announced on Tuesday.

The social media giant's announcement came after it began unveiling its face recognition feature two years ago. Face recognition tells users when a photo has been uploaded which includes their face.

Under the new system, Facebook will ask users whether they want to turn on the face recognition feature. This "opt-in" model will allow users to have more control over what Facebook does with data about their face.

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"Starting today, people who newly join Facebook or who previously had the tag suggestions setting will have the face recognition setting and will receive information about how it works," Facebook AI researcher Srinivas Narayanan wrote in the blog post.

"The tag suggestions setting, which only controls whether we can suggest that your friends tag you in photos or videos using face recognition will no longer be available," he added.

The face recognition feature will effectively replace the "tag suggestions" feature, which has been at the center of ongoing litigation since 2015.

Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit over whether it violated user privacy with its facial recognition tools.

The plaintiffs in the case have argued that Facebook violated an Illinois law — the most expansive of its kind in the country — when the company instituted "Tag Suggestions" without users' explicit consent in 2010.

Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" used facial recognition technology to suggest which users might be in the photo. 

Facebook also ran into trouble over its facial recognition technology during the Federal Trade Commission's  (FTC) highly-publicized investigation into the company's privacy practices. Earlier this summer, the company settled with the FTC for a record-shattering $5 billion fine and a litany of new privacy safeguards, including a requirement that Facebook obtain affirmative consent from users before using facial recognition tech.

A Facebook spokesman told The Hill the new face recognition program will be compliant with the "bounds" of the FTC settlement, though it is not a direct response.