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Facebook Launches Facial Recognition Software But Excludes Canada

Using a face to identify someone. Who would have thunk it?

Facebook has announced new optional tools that will help people manage their identity on the social media platform more extensively than ever before—but Canadians and the entire European Union won’t have access to it.

Using the same technology Facebook developed to help people tag photos on the platform, these new features will help users find images of themselves that others could be utilizing for fake profile photos. On top of this, a new way for the visually impaired to know more about who is in the photos they encounter on the platform is being introduced.

These facial recognition tools can be quickly deactivated with a simple “on/off” switch, but Canada won’t even get to try them. Canadians and those in the EU are excluded from this update due to regulatory problems. Facebook does not want facial-recognition technology in those regions, due to increased wariness from privacy bodies.

The reasoning as to why Canada may be exempt from the tech goes back to when Facebook automatically opted users into the “photo tagging” feature back in 2011, a move that was met by huge backlash from lawmakers.

The recent facial recognition feature only applies to newly uploaded photos, and if a user has tag suggestions set to “none,” then the default setting for the feature will be “off.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 3.05.20 PM

Facebooks’s facial recognition software in action.

“Now, if you’re in a photo and are part of the audience for that post, we’ll notify you, even if you haven’t been tagged,” writes Joaquin Candela, Facebook’s director of applied machine learning. “You’re in control of your image on Facebook and can make choices such as whether to tag yourself, leave yourself untagged, or reach out to the person who posted the photo if you have concerns about it.”

The update comes as a way for Facebook to stop the spread of fake profiles and impersonators. It’s not the only move Facebook has made when it comes to battling what they consider fake–campaigns promoting media literacy and solving the epidemic of fake news have dominated the social media giant’s newsroom over the past year.

Facebooks technology for facial recognition involves analyzing pixels in photos a user is already tagged in and generating a string of numbers for them called a template. When a new image is uploaded, Facebook compares those templates and looks for a match, and then informs the person who’s photo may be stolen por uploaded without consent.

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