Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is facing another privacy issue, after Germany reopened an investigation on Wednesday into the company’s facial recognition technology. The issue under review is whether the social networking giant had illegally put together a large database of members’ photos sans their consent.
This is a no-no in Europe.
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According to The New York Times, data protection commissioner, Johannes Caspar, had halted the investigation in June, but has since reopened it after having no luck in getting Facebook to amend its policies.
Caspar said, “We have met repeatedly with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), but have not been able to get their cooperation on this issue, which has grave implications for personal data.”
This isn’t Caspar’s first personal data case. He oversaw Germany’s investigation of Google’s illegal acquisition of personal Internet data from its Street View project.
Caspar has supposedly met with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) executives numerous times since he opened his review in June 2011. It subsequently closed after a year, due to the company appearing compliant to his requests.
At issue in the reopened Facebook case is the company’s utilization of analytic software to produce archives of human faces from photos uploaded by the site’s members. This is a sticking point in Europe, where under data protection laws, it requires people to state their consent.
Facebook had maintained that instead of pushing the button for an opt-in, it believes users want to utilize facial recognition, and therefore requires them to instead opt out.
So what is Caspar asking this time around that possibly different? He has “demanded” Facebook wipe out the photographic database of German faces, and amend its web site for the obtainment of members’ consent before they can make a digital file from their faces’ biometric data.
In meetings between the two, Facebook has attested to gathering the biometric data on users, but maintains it’s a legally-accepted practice in Ireland. But how does Ireland fit into this picture? It’s the location of incorporation for Facebook’s European operations.
Caspar doesn’t intend to drag this on, reported the New York Times, as he will produce a formal request to Facebook to change its practices by September 30.
Facebook responded via a statement that it is not in violation of E.U. laws for facial recognition software. This asks members to “tag,” or identify, people in photos that are added in the service.
The social networking site said via the New York Times, “We believe that the Photo Tag Suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with E.U. data protection laws.”During our continuous dialogue with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop the best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about Photo Tag Suggest.”
Meanwhile, back in June, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was exploring whether to include the under-13 crowd on its site. Here at ValueWalk, we wrote about this, and thought while it was a nice way to include this young group with their limited access and strict parental controls on the site, we questioned whether some parents would possibly question if this had any educational value for this kids.