UK privacy watchdog echoes concerns over use of facial recognition data on social media sites
Germany's data-protection authority has re-opened its investigation into whether Facebook has breached privacy laws by automatically tagging photos of users.
The social media site uses facial-recognition technology to identify people and place a tag on photographs of them without gaining prior consent - a process that the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Hamburg believes is a breach of EU privacy laws.
Facebook's facial-tagging system was introduced in the US in 2010 before being applied to all Facebook accounts. The data stored relating to an individual's face is considered a biometric - much like a fingerprint or iris scan.
Although users can turn off the feature in their privacy settings, Dr Caspar said that "explicit consent is a legal requirement for the collecting and processing of biometric data" accordong to the EU Data Protection Directive.
This concern was echoed by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The UK's privacy watchdog said: '"The privacy issues which this software might raise are obvious, and users should be given as much information as possible so that they have the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether they wish to use it.
"We continue to work closely with relevant data-protection authorities across Europe to ensure individuals are afforded consistent and appropriate levels of protection."
Facebook said in a statement: "We believe that the photo tag suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data-protection laws."
However, the German data protection commission hopes that by reopening the investigation it can get Facebook to "destroy its photographic database of faces collected in Germany" and ensure it obtains express consent from Facebook users before creating a digital file from the technology."
Graham Cluley, a senior consultant at the security company Sophos, feels that the Commission's proposal for stronger data protection, and growing demand to remove data, Facebook can expect more privacy concerns to be raised in the future.
"As Facebook's power grows I expect that we will see more legislators and privacy watchdogs raise concerns about what the site is doing and whether it really is doing enough to protect its community," he said.
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