Just yesterday Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted an open letter to all of the site's 350 million users explaining that regional networks would be disbanded for the sake of its users privacy (i.e. Silicon Valley, Nassau County, London, etc.). Zuckerberg also announced that users would soon be granted an easier user interface for privacy controls, and more targeted privacy controls for that matter.
This is all well and good, and progress made on Facebook's privacy discussions earlier this year, however the company still hasn't found a solution to protect user privacy in one area: pictures. I'm not talking about the pictures that we upload ourselves and then set appropriate privacy settings, I'm talking about the photos tagged by other people. Or worse, the photos uploaded and not tagged.
Everyone on the Web has been well-warned: don't do anything that you wouldn't want photographed and placed online. But one can never completely avoid being photographed at a wedding or party or other type of function, even if he or she is innocently eating a sandwich or talking to pals. And although a person might be thrilled to have photos taken by friends or family for the sake of making memories, they may still not want these pictures of themselves, or even their children, uploaded to social networks.
Yet users have absolutely no control over what photos are uploaded. If they are tagged, they may not have an immediate opportunity to log in and click 'remove tag' or may be unaware that the function to do so exists.
Doesn't this seem like something that Facebook should easily be able to fix?
A simple solution would be an email notification that goes to the tagged user before the photo is published, allowing them to either remove the tag or request that the photo not be posted.
The downside of that, of course, is that it would take control of the upload away from the uploading user, thereby depleting instant gratification for photo uploaders all over. That begs the question, what is more important: privacy or user control?
In terms of photos not tagged, Facebook itself hasn't yet come up with any cool facial recognition, though it should. An app from Face.com, Photo Tagger is extending Facebook privacy control to photo sharing with a new feature called Face Alerts. Face.com utilizes facial recognition technology to automatically and continuously scan newly uploaded photos within a user’s social network. Users are then alerted via Facebook notification, email or both when their face is found in a photo, even if it is not tagged. This is a cool application but it's third-party and not innate for the Facebook user. I'd hope Facebook would come up with something similar to offer directly to its users.
Again, I commend Facebook on making some progress in terms of better protecting user privacy, but the photo issue seems to be a big glaring error.
What should Facebook do to fix this?
Note: For a very entertaining translation of Zuckerberg's letter, check out Caroline McCarthy's post.