February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
June 20, 2011
Once again Facebook finds itself in the midst of yet another privacy issue. Facebook is launching a facial recognition program that will aid users in tagging photos (that is, attaching names to photos). Once a user is tagged, Facebook’s facial recognition software will suggest his or her name when others have a photo and Facebook thinks she or he is in that photo.
As with other Facebook initiatives, they choose to allow users to opt out. A user is assumed to be in until he or she tells Facebook to stop. This process, as per usual, has privacy advocates up in arms. These advocates always desire an opt in programs. In PC Magazine, Sarah Jacobson Purewall noted, “Opting out won’t keep Facebook from gathering data and recognizing your face – it’ll just keep people from tagging you automatically.” In a move that is meant to calm and assuage, Facebook reminds everyone that only friends will be recommended to friends. This message satisfies none of the privacy advocates.
What is at issue here is omniscience. What separates this issue from others is not simply sharing your personal information and data with others, but that Facebook is running a facial recognition program identifying people as if it knows them for certain. In this day and age, everyone is (or at least should be) aware that employers routinely search Facebook for its prospective employees. Who knows what names Facebook might suggest in attaching to a name? Will their be errors? Surely. Could there be terrible errors? Very probably. In the end, the storm against the facial recognition program is a realization that Facebook simply cannot know all of its users in every photograph.
No one can know for certain where these issues will go ultimately. Many advocates decry that privacy is vanishing. But the reality is that there is little one can do in the face of someone who is truly omniscient. All one can hope for is that the truly omniscient one is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God is indeed this. Facebook is not God. God is motivated by this love. Facebook, despite its warm and fuzzy discussion of helping people connect, is motivated by the bottom line. Clearly Facebook thinks this move will result in more users and more profits. Facebook can talk all it wants to about improving user experience, but only as the means to people staying and adding to their bank account. Even if Facebook never abuses their power, there are plenty of ways that others will find to take advantage of this new feature to harm or exploit. In a fallen world, the burden of omniscience is simply too high.