Is Facebook’s New Photo Tagging Feature Really A Privacy Control?

The future is here. Social networking giant Facebook now knows not only who you are, but what you look like and what your friends should do with your image. Sound creepy? Facebook says, no, it’s actually a privacy control.

That was the explanation Facebook Vice President of Product Chris Cox gave to tech blog CNET in an interview announcing the changes.

“Tagging is actually really important for control, because every time a tag is created it means that there was a photo of you on the Internet that you didn’t know about,” Facebook Vice President of Product Chris Cox told CNET. “Once you know that, you can remove the tag, or you can promote it to your friends, or you can write the person and say, ‘I’m not that psyched about this photo.’”

The new Tag Suggestions feature, to be rolled out in the next few weeks, builds on the site’s current facial recognition component that identifies your face in photographs and suggests who to tag in the image.

When someone uploads a photograph, the technology will scan the faces and then scan its database of already tagged photos. When it makes a match, it will suggest that face be tagged in the newly uploaded photograph.

Photographs have a huge, and growing, presence on Facebook, with 2.5 billion photographs uploaded each month to the site in 2009, a number that has likely increased this year.

So the privacy reasoning goes: The more you’re tagged in those photographs, the more you’ll know what photographs of you are online.

That may go over well for Facebook, but perhaps not so much for users wary of privacy breach after privacy breach on the site.

For those users, the most important part of this feature is that, if you’re concerned about your privacy, you can turn it off.

“If for any reason you don’t want your name to be suggested, you will be able to disable suggested tags in your Privacy Settings. Just click “Customize Settings” and “Suggest photos of me to friends.” Your name will no longer be suggested in photo tags, though friends can still tag you manually,” Facebook said.

Facebook’s current privacy settings also allow you to prevent your Facebook friends from tagging you manually in photos, and give you the option of untagging your name in photos.

Just remember, unlike the new feature, this is something you can’t rely on Facebook to do for you.

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