Facebook could incorporate its more than 1 billion users' profile photos into a facial recognition database to identify users across the social network.
Facebook announced the possibility as "an update to its data use policy" Thursday, according to Reuters. Basically Facebook could use the photos to ease tagging friends and acquaintances, or Tag Suggest, posted on the the social network. Current policy allows users to remove identifying tags when they are the subjects of others' photos, but beefing up its facial recognition database could mean less privacy.
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Facebook said that wasn't the case. Instead, the new policy could help users and "give users better control" over their photos, said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer. "Our goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service," Egan said.
Facebook users will be able to opt out of the tagging feature so their profile photos would not be included in the database. In Europe, Facebook doesn't have Tag Suggest because of privacy concerns. Google+'s "Find My Face" also requires user consent to use facial recognition technology.
Egan said that while Facebook isn't incorporating facial recognition in any other way, it could change in the future. "Can I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not," Egan said.
Facebook users only have a few options to keep their profile photos from becoming used to identify them. Either opt out of the service in the future, or upload profile photos of objects or landscapes.