EMILY CAPOUYA WRITES- According to Facebook’s blog post this Tuesday, facial recognition will “be off by default for all new users, and for current users who do nothing when they receive an upcoming notice about the change.”
While originally popularized by Facebook as a seemingly harmless concept used to tag friends’ faces in photos posted on social media, facial recognition technology used by American companies has since sparked intense debate. Privacy advocates have attacked its ability to scan and identify people’s faces without their consent. As a result, users will now have to give manual consent for the feature to be part of their social media experience.
Not so in China. There, the public and private sectors have been early and aggressive actors in the field of facial recognition technology. There, too, its heightened use has increasingly sparked controversy. In the effort to gain a better grip on its population, facial recognition is being utilized to nab suspected criminals and promote “model behaviors.” It can locate jaywalkers, monitor students’ class attendance and target citizens who dispose of trash improperly. Furthermore, China’s largest companies are being called upon to incorporate facial recognition for other purposes. For example, subway passengers in the city of Shenzen pay by way of facial scanners instead of fare cards.
While Facebook amended its facial recognition policy, the Chinese government has not. Facebook, for all its recent negative publicity, seems to have finally made the right technological call, at least by American values.