You have probably used Facebook’s photo tagging option; tagged who is who in the photos you share in the social network. To successfully tag your friends’ names in photos, Facebook keeps a facial recognition database of users. The technology uses photos from the database to provide tagging suggestions. However, German authorities have now stated that this is against the European law and clearly infringes the rights of the users.
The German data protection officials have accused that Facebook has been illegally maintaining a database of users’ photos. According to European data protection law, users must give their explicit consent to a feature before being opted-in. But Facebook has been assuming that by using its service users have already given their consent to the facial recognition feature in the social networking site. The site, however, give the opportunity to opt-out to users. But, that’s not what the data protection commission is asking for.
Investigations against Facebook had been launched back in 2011, but were suspended later on. The investigations have been relaunched recently, and the German authorities are now asking Facebook to “destroy its photographic database of faces collected in Germany and revise its Web site to obtain the explicit consent of users before it creates a digital file based on the biometric data of their faces.”
However, Facebook has a clever edge in the entire issue. It’s European operations are based in Ireland where data collection is rather legal. So the social network can effectively claim that it isn’t infringing any European laws in archiving the user photos.
In a statement, Facebook said, “We believe that the Photo Tag Suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU 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 a best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about Photo Tag Suggest.”
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