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CR applauds Facebook for eliminating use of controversial facial recognition technology

Consumer Reports investigation into Facebook’s facial recognition tools was cited by FTC in historic 2019 settlement

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Facebook today announced in a blog post that it is shutting down its facial recognition system. CR’s 2019 investigation found that Facebook misrepresented steps that certain consumers needed to take to control facial recognition technology. CR’s complaint about these misrepresentations was cited in the FTC’s historic 2019 settlement with the company, which was one of several cited by the FTC in its statement about the settlement and restrictions for the company. 

In addition to these concerns about misrepresentation, this technology, which maps users’ facial features, is invasive and contrary to consumers’ expectations, and can lead to inappropriate surveillance.

According to CR’s complaint, Facebook indicated in their privacy policy that the facial recognition feature, used to automatically tag users in photos, was implemented on an opt-in basis. However, CR’s research showed that for many consumers, it was on by default. Following the FTC settlement over this and other practices, Facebook announced that it was pushing opt-in controls to all users.

Maureen Mahoney, senior policy analyst at CR, said, “We commend Facebook’s decision to shut down its facial recognition program, especially given the company’s history of misleading consumers over the use of the technology. But real privacy can’t be guaranteed without comprehensive federal privacy protections. We call on Congress to enact strong privacy legislation and to adequately fund the Commission, so that it has the resources it needs to enforce the law. In addition, we urge the FTC to aggressively use its existing powers and issue regulations to protect online privacy.”

Contact: Cyrus Rassool, cyrus.rassool@consumer.org