Facebook recently sent out an announcement to many of its users.:
When you go to the settings, you may find, as I did, that the permission was already set to YES. If you don’t want Facebook to use face recognition, you need to change the setting to NO to opt out.
What this means is that Facebook has been using your face across the web without ever having asked you for permission. Also, note that if you choose to say YES and allow them to use face recognition, you’re also agreeing to opt in to “unspecified features we may add later.”
It’s a terrible way to treat their users, essentially the part about using our biometric data without first asking for permission so they can gather more data about us and share that information with whomever they choose. There’s really no limit to what they can do with this data, including tracking our identity across the web and learning much more about what we do outside of the Facebook app. Imagine their ability to access photos we may appear in from other sources such as in friends’ photos, the DMV, security cameras, and photo IDs.
And by giving them permission to automatically opt us in to future unspecified features, Facebook could conceivably do such things as turn on our camera and microphone to learn more about our activities in our homes. It’s hard to imagine how much more egregious Facebook can become, but it seems each day they are finding new ways.
Fast Company, a respected publication and website, theorized that the Facebook post they issued might be related to the lawsuits filed against them, including by the state of Illinois, which restricts a company’s ability to collect and store biometric data without consent. So perhaps they’re asking for permission for what they’ve already been doing.
The publication notes, “The timing is very interesting. [On Monday], for example, a federal judge ruled that Facebook will be subject to a class action lawsuit about its biometric gathering and storage program. The company had filed to dismiss the case, but the U.S. District judge ruled against it. Now the case is proceeding, and Facebook could be forced to change the way it handles collecting facial (and other bodily) data.”
Facebook told Fast Company that the court decision and the notices this week are not related. Of course not!
Facebook’s failure to adequately address its issues with troll farms, its inability to adequately weed out fake news, and the increasingly chaotic feeds are beginning to have an impact. Growth has suddenly stalled, with the number of total users in the U.S. this year growing by just less than one percent, to 169.5 million. It’s also experiencing fading appeal among teens. “This year, for the first time, less than half of US internet users ages 12 to 17 will use Facebook via any device at least once per month,” eMarketeer reported.
A company cannot continue to treat its users the way Facebook does without serious consequences. And that can’t happen soon enough.