With a simple post on its privacy page, Facebook yesterday announced it had re-enabled its photo Tag Suggestions feature in the US after the feature was temporarily suspended last year, supposedly to allow for some “technical improvements”. The feature means users can use the facial recognition capability of Tag Suggestions to help them “easily identify a friend in a photo and share that content with them”. The announcement is not exactly being trumpeted – so far it only has 178 Likes on the post, a very low number given that over a million users have Liked the Facebook privacy page. In addition, Tag Suggestions does not look like it has been switched on in Europe yet, since we’re not seeing it on European Facebook accounts right now.
The Tag Suggestions feature was first available in the US in late 2010 and available worldwide by June 2011, but it experienced a backlash both in the US and in Europe for privacy reasons. The feature has returned with no changes, and is set to “on” by default. So it would appear that Facebook is testing the waters for our acceptance of the whole idea. Making photo tagging easier is crucial for increasing Facebook’s engagement metrics and return visits. The move could also signal that facial recognition is ready for mobile.
Because tags are suggested to you automatically, this streamlines the process of tagging photos, and is a way of Facebook to more accurately measure your social graph based on the photos in which you are tagged. Of course, that then improves Facebook Graph Search.
It’s possible to opt out of tag suggestions by clicking on Account Settings, Timeline and Tagging, then editing the option “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?”.
The question is, will there be another public backlash, or will users simply grow to find the Tag Suggestions useful rather than just a little creepy? We’re about to find out.