Facebook’s Opt-In Facial Recognition Tech Comes to Canada

Facebook wants to see your lovely face—but only if you let them.

The social media giant has been completely revamping their privacy policies amid widespread scandal from recent incidents involving Cambridge Analytica and the scraping of public data. Now Facebook has begun asking Canadian and European users to let it use facial recognition technology to identify photos and videos much better, however users must opt-in to the feature first.

Certain aspects of Facebook’s facial recognition feature has actually been live on Facebook for users outside of Canada since 2011, but in 2012 EU citizens protested and it was removed in the region. This new opt-in is just one of several permissions being rolled out in advance of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They will be introduced in Europe first but will spread to other countries soon after.


Facebook users outside of Canada and the EU are already subjected to facial recognition but can opt out if they wish. The feature works by Facebook assigning each user a number called a template, calculated by analyzing how they look in pictures they have already been tagged in. Untagged faces are then compared to these templates, and recommendations are then sent to users if they may appear in a photo or video they are not aware of or tagged in.

“We will also ask people to agree to our updated terms of service and data policy, which include more detail in response to questions about how our services work,” wrote Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer of policy. “We’re not asking for new rights to collect, use or share your data on Facebook, and we continue to commit that we do not sell information about you to advertisers or other partners.”

The idea is to alert users when a photo or video of them may be used without consent. This could prevent fake profiles and other intrusions of privacy. The feature can also help recommend new friends, keeping users on Facebook for longer.

Other features being rolled out to the EU, and soon to the rest of the world, including the ability to review information based on advertising with available data. Users can opt out of seeing ads from partners based on personal data.

Facebook profiles that show religious, political and relationship information will also have the option to hide those affiliations, though that has always been possible. The option to delete that information is now easier.

Other options that could soon make their way to Canada based on the GDPR changes include changes to how those under 18 years of age use the platform. Public information will be much more hidden for non-adults, and young teens will automatically be opted out of seeing ads based on partner data.