How to Disable Facebook's Facial Recognition Feature

Facebook can identify your face. Creepy or cool? You decide.

Group of friends taking a photo of themselves on a camera phone

 Yuri_Arcurs / Getty Images

The current purpose of Facebook's facial recognition technology is to assist users with tagging their friends in photos. Unfortunately, testing done by some reviewers has found the technology to be ​less than accurate. In Europe, Facebook was required by law to delete European users' facial recognition data due to privacy concerns.

Facebook's facial recognition will likely improve over time and Facebook will probably find more applications for this technology. As the technology evolves and matures, some people will regard facial recognition data as harmless information, but others will likely have privacy concerns with how the data is used and protected.

Whether you think facial recognition is the best thing since sliced bread or you think it's just plain creepy, you may want to adjust your privacy settings to disable it until you've made up your mind on how you feel about it.

How do You Disable Facebook's Facial Recognition Features?

  1. After logging into your Facebook account, click the upside-down triangle next to the home button in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

  2. Click Settings in the drop-down menu.

  3. Click Privacy

  4. Click Timeline and Tagging.

  5. Under the Timeline and Tagging dialog box, scroll down to the "Who sees tag suggestions of you when photos that look like you are uploaded?"

  6. Click Edit to the far right of that question.

  7. Select the No One in the drop-down menu. The other option is to allow only your friends to see tag suggestions. There is no "everyone" option.

  8. Click Close and confirm No One appears to the left of Edit.

What Data Does Facebook use to Tell That a Photo Looks Like You And to Suggest That Friends Tag You in Their Photos?

According to Facebook's help site, there are two types of information required to automatically suggest that a newly uploaded photo looks like someone who’s been tagged on Facebook before:

From the Facebook Site:

"Information about photos you’re tagged in. When you’re tagged in a photo, or make a photo your profile picture, we associate the tags with your account, compare what these photos have in common and store a summary of this comparison. If you’ve never been tagged in a photo on Facebook or have untagged yourself in all photos of you on Facebook, then we do not have this summary information for you.
Comparing your new photos to stored info about photos you’re tagged in. We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a photo by scanning and comparing your friend's photos to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged. If this feature is enabled for you, you can control whether we suggest that another person tag you in a photo using your Timeline and Tagging settings."

Currently, photo tagging appears to be the only thing that Facebook is using their facial recognition technology for, but this may likely change in the future as other uses are found for this data. We can all imagine the various 'big brother' scenarios that have played out in countless Hollywood movies such as Eagle Eye and others, but for now, the technology has a long way to go before it would support anything so ambitious and scary.

The best advice for dealing with any Facebook privacy concerns you may have is to check your privacy settings at least once a month to see if there is something that you were opted-in to that you would rather opt-out of.