SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said facial recognition technology applied to photos at the social network will be an opt-in feature. The change that began rolling out to users around the world came as the leading social network remains under pressure to better protect privacy and user data, including biometric information.


Nearly two years ago, Facebook introduced a face recognition feature that went beyond suggesting friends to tag in pictures or videos but could let user know when they were in images they had permission to see elsewhere on the service. Facebook is doing away with a “tag” suggestion setting in favor of an overall facial recognition setting which will be off by default, according to a post by artificial intelligence applied research lead Srinivas Narayanan.


“Facebook’s face recognition technology still does not recognize you to strangers,” Narayanan said. “We don’t share your face recognition information with third parties. We also don’t sell our technology.” People new to Facebook or who had the “tag” feature operating will get word from the social network about the face recognition setting along with an easy way to turn it on if they wish, according to Narayanan.


“People will still be able to manually tag friends, but we won’t suggest you to be tagged if you do not have face recognition turned on,” Narayanan said. “If you already have the face recognition setting, you won’t receive a notice.” The move comes amid growing concerns about facial recognition technology by law enforcement and government agencies, and with widespread use of the system for surveillance in parts of the world including China.


Hiding ‘Like’ counts
Also, Facebook on Tuesday confirmed it is dabbling with no longer making a public display of how many “likes” are racked up by posts. Such a change could ease pressure to win approval with images, videos or comments and, instead, get people to simply focus on what is in posts. Facebook-owned Instagram earlier this year announced it was testing hiding like counts and video view tallies in more than a half-dozen countries, with account holders still able to see the numbers but masking amounts from others.


“We are considering hiding like counts from Facebook,” a spokesman for the leading social network told AFP on Tuesday. Twitter has also experimented with hiding numbers of times tweets were “liked” or “retweeted,” according to product lead Kayvon Beykpour. Twitter found that people engaged less with tweets when they couldn’t see the counts. “When you remove engagement indicators, people engage less,” Beykpour said while briefing journalists at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco last month.- Agencies