Now that Facebook has bought facial recognition vendor, many users are worried that the giant social network will use the technology to infringe on their privacy. While you can’t stop Facebook from grabbing the facial-recognition data, there are ways to limit the service’s use of that information.

Security vendor Sophos has posted step-by-step instructions on how to prevent Facebook from using that facial-recognition data to suggest to other users that they tag their pictures with your name.

While Facebook users can’t stop the company from gathering the information, the privacy settings in their accounts lets them pull in the reins and take some control over which photos bear their names.

“This doesn’t mean that Facebook won’t learn about what you look like and associate it with your likes and friendships,” writes Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in the company’s blog. “But it does mean you can opt out of Facebook using the data it has collected on your appearance,”

Simple Steps

The steps are fairly straightforward.

Simply go to “timeline and tagging” in the privacy settings, click on “edit settings” and then select “no one” on the option “who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded.” Press “OK,” and you are done.

This opt out procedure reflects Facebook’s general approach when it comes to privacy. Users typically have to opt out of sharing personal information, as opposed to being asked beforehand. By comparison, Google+ asks users for permissionbefore applying facial-recognition technology.

Facebook had been using the Israeli startup’s technology for some time, but the buyout was announced Monday. Actually owning is expected to lead Facebook to more deeply integrate the technology into its services.

The Increasing Importance of Pictures

For Facebook, a picture seems to be worth far more than a thousand words. Before its initial public offering in May, Facebook told potential investors in regulatory filings that photos were expected to add value to the company.

The acquistion is only the latest attempt to make the most of how they are used on the site. Two months ago, Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram, a service for easily sharing photos by mobile phone.

But just because Facebook thinks pictures are important doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to let it do anything it wants with your image. You own your face, Facebook doesn’t.

antone gonsalves