'Tag Suggestions': Facebook brings face recognition to all users

Facebook said on Tuesday that its facial recognition technology applied to photos at the social network will be an opt-in feature to all users, as it discontinued a related feature called “Tag Suggestions.”

The social media giant has been mired in controversy as being accused of leaking users' profiles for targeted advertising, particularly political advertising. The most notorious case is the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the company was suspected to have intervened the pro-Brexit Leave EU campaign and the Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Read more: Cambridge Analytica CEO claims influence on US election, Facebook questioned

While the new opt-in setting is designed to protect user's privacy and data, including biometric information.

The face recognition setting, available to some Facebook users since December 2017, has additional functions such as notifying account holders if their profile photo is used by someone else.

Facebook's discontinue of "Tag Suggestions" is in favor of an overall facial recognition setting that will be off by default, according to a release sent by Srinivas Narayanan, leader of Facebook AI applied research.

"We don't share your face recognition information with third parties. We also don't sell our technology," said 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."

The lawsuit

Facebook’s face recognition technology has been at the center of a privacy related lawsuit since 2015.

The lawsuit by Illinois users accused the company of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, claiming it illegally collected and stored biometric data of millions of users without their consent.

Last month, a federal appeals court rejected Facebook’s effort to undo the class action status of the lawsuit.

"We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” Facebook said last month.

The company said it continues to engage with privacy experts, academics, regulators and its users on face recognition and its control options.

(With input from Reuters)