Facebook Face Recognition Gets into Trouble with European Privacy Regulators

By on June 9th, 2011 11:21 GMT

Despite Facebook acknowledging that it should have communicated the fact that its face recognition technology was now being rolled out internationally and despite the feature not being such a big privacy concern, the company is getting in trouble with privacy regulators in Europe.

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, the group which advises the EU member states on all manner of privacy-related issues, has criticized Facebook for rolling out the feature quietly and also for making it opt-out, enabled by default for all users.

The latter part was the most worrying for the group which believes users should not have this feature shoved upon them and that it should not be their responsibility to dig through the privacy settings and disable it if they don't want it.

"Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people’s prior consent and it can’t be activated by default," Gerard Lommel, a member of the privacy group, said.

The group asked for more information on the technology and how the feature worked which Facebook provided. However, it has not begun an investigation into the matter nor is it clear that it will.

"We have noted the comments from some regulators about this product feature and we are providing them with additional information which we are confident will satisfy any concerns they will have," Facebook told Reuters over the matter.

It's unclear how this will play out, but Facebook may be forced to make the feature opt-in, at least in Europe, and may even be forced to do a roll-back of some of the functionality.

Currently, Facebook uses face recognition technology do detect the people in an image and, if they are your Facebook friends, will suggest their names so you can tag them easier.

The feature could prove quite convenient, but some people are a bit skittish about the idea of an algorithm automatically finding them in photos.

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European privacy regulators criticize Facebook over face recognition technology
   European privacy regulators criticize Facebook over face recognition technology