Facebook on the defensive over face recognition

Facebook has been forced to respond to a torrent of criticism that followed its stealth roll-out of face recognition technology, which allows users to be tagged in photos without their knowledge.

In a decidedly defensive statement, the social network admitted that it "should have been more clear" about informing users of the technology's roll-out. The system was introduced for North American users last December, but began to appear unannounced on the accounts of users in "most countries" over the last week.

What Facebook's response fails to address was the central criticism of the technology, made by privacy watchers including Graham Cluley of UK security outfit Sophos: that unless they actively opt out of the feature by changing their privacy settings, users can find themselves tagged in friends' images without their knowledge or permission.

The statement released today by Marky Z's Glee Club informs users:

"We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that's currently done more than 100 million times a day. Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. If for any reason someone doesn't want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their Privacy Settings.

"When we announced this feature last December, we explained that we would test it, listen to feedback and iterate before rolling it out more broadly. We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them. Tag Suggestions are now available in most countries and we'll post further updates to our blog over time."

So there you have it. Nothing to worry about. As you were. Or something.