Protecting Facebook Photos from Facial Recognition Software

You should be aware by now that any content you upload online could be scraped or exploited by malicious elements. It’s a useful reminder about the importance of emplacing appropriate settings on various social media platforms to limit how your content is accessed and used.

The New York Times recently reported that Clearview AI was found scraping more than 3 billion images from millions of websites including Facebook to develop a facial-recognition app which helps to identify people from a gigantic database.

Although Clearview AI’s scraping methods indeed technically violate terms of service on many websites, that hasn’t stopped them from collecting images en masse. In effect, your entire online data, even if set to private right away, was very likely already scanned and extracted.

As the saying goes, ‘something is better than nothing’. It’s advisable to open Facebook, click on Settings > Privacy and look-up the option “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” Disable it right away. By doing so, Clearview AI won’t be able to extract your images.

Improve Facebook privacy with these settings

  • Change “Who can see your future posts” to “friends“.
  • Use the “Limit Past Posts” option to “friends-only” and limit past content visibility.
  • Ensure only you can see your friends list.
  • Ensure only your friends or friends and friends can look you up using your email and phone number.
  • Visit the “Timeline and Tagging” page. Only allow friends to see what other people post on your timeline including posts you’re tagged in. It’s advisable to enable the “Review” option for tags.
  • Pull up the “Public posts” section of settings page and limit who is allowed to follow you. You should also preferably restrict who can like and comment on your publicly-visible info.

Then what?

Take some time out to jot down all forums where you’ve shared snippets of your life (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, YouTube etc). Dig deep into the settings of each service and how to limit the visibility of existing content as best as possible.

Instagram influencers and marketers might find the “private” option ludicrous since it will slow the followership requests; but at least they’ll prevent scrapers from mass-downloading your photos and associate them with you!

Can you completely prevent the process of creating a huge searchable database of images? Practically not. Clearview AI’s example allows us to understand the underlying dangers of services with which your information is shared. You should always be able to restrict access to your personal data.


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