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There is a lot of talk based around how technology and the Internet have removed our sense of privacy, and our desire for anonymity. Teens especially have a carefree attitude towards their own privacy, as they share images, anecdotes, and selfies as a part of everyday socialisation. This can be particularly concerning for parents because, while sharing is often a safe and normal way to interact with others, it is not always safe.
Photo and location sharing, which is commonplace on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, can easily become a digital privacy concern. So how can parents help to protect their child’s digital privacy within a world that actively encourages openness?
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Facebook has introduced a new optional tool to help users control where and how their photo is used, and by whom. It is a form of facial recognition software that alerts users when their face is detected in an image. Alerts include a link to the image so that the individual can check to see if it is their face, and then control whether or not the post is allowed to stay on Facebook. The post can be approved, reported, tagged or untagged. Control is given to the person in the photo rather than the person who posted it, which is a small but significant change. However, if you are not a part of the audience for the content you will not be notified if you are tagged in a photo . We believe Facebook are on the right track here, with regard to protecting teens online.
This element of control may not be a huge leap forward for digital privacy, but it is a step in the right direction, and is something parents and teens would benefit from discussing and trialling for themselves. The negative online behaviour this facial recognition software may help to inhibit includes:
The Facebook newsroom explains why they have made these features available.
‘We want people to feel confident when they post pictures of themselves on Facebook so we’ll soon begin using face recognition technology to let people know when someone else uploads a photo of them as their profile picture. We’re doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook ’.
As this technology grows and expands it will become smarter. It is accurate now, but it is not yet perfect; at this stage, it may still send alerts to people who are not present in the image but have similar features.
‘Nipun Mather, a product manager in the company’s applied machine learning group, said in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that the facial recognition features build on advances the company’s artificial intelligence researchers have made in computer vision.
While now able to identify most users in head-on photos, the technology won’t recognize people whose faces are obscured, in shadow or at unusual angles. He also said it would struggle to differentiate identical twins .’
Digital privacy is important for teens and parents as it gives them control over their digital data and provides some protection from images being shared without their knowledge or consent. Photoshopping a person’s face onto a harmful image and circulating it online is a common method of cyberbullying. This type of bullying behaviour can damage a young person’s reputation and cause enormous anguish, yet it has to date been difficult to prevent. This new rollout by Facebook could go some distance towards stopping such malicious techniques from being effective.
This technology provides additional online safety support for teens, however, it doesn’t eliminate the need for other measures. Password protection, sound privacy settings and a well-managed list of contacts are still important, whether or not the facial recognition technology is enabled .
We advise talking to your teen about this new option and asking them to give it a try. The control is a simple on/off toggle and is non-invasive . It won’t change how Facebook works, it will just provide an element of protection for teens and parents using Facebook.