Facebook Probed By EU For Facial Recognition Feature

Facebook has had a facial recognition system for awhile now. It's part of a feature that helps users tag friends in photos and is by default turned off. Users must opt in to use it. But, recently the service went global, expanding beyond North America and the setting became activated by default. This development has alarmed regulators and has unleashed European Union's data-protection watchdogs on the company.

The group, formed from EU's 27 nations will study the measure for possible rules violations, said Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party. Data protection authorities in Ireland will also be pouncing on the Facebook facial recognition powered photo tagging feature.

"Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people's prior consent and it can't be activated by default," said Lommel. Such automatic tagging "can bear a lot of risks for users" and the group of European data protection officials will "clarify to Facebook that this can't happen like this."

Facebook has explained before that the setting is active by default but that users can opt out by disabling the function in settings if they do not want their names to be automatically suggested in other people's pictures. They also made the following response:

"We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that's currently done more than 100 million times a day. Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested."

Do you find this as alarming as do the EU? Or is it a nice feature that makes it more convenient to tag your friends in photos?

[via Business Week]