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EU data protection group voices concern over new Facebook facial recognition feature

Also: Want to opt out of the new feature, which suggests tags for newly-uploaded images? Here’s how…
Jun 8th 2011, 2:18 PM 3,213 9

FACEBOOK’S new facial recognition feature for photos posted to the social networking site has drawn the attention of EU data protection officials who are concerned about tags being added without users’ consent.

The feature, which was introduced on a limited basis for testing in December in the US, uses facial recognition software to suggest name tags for newly-uploaded photos.

However, the Register reports that Facebook has added the feature to more accounts – without notifying users first. It reports that Facebook says it realises it “should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them”.

A Facebook spokesperson said the feature was now available in most countries – including Ireland.

Bloomberg reports that EU data protection regulators are concerned about the automatic tagging of photos without a person’s prior consent. Gerard Lommel from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said tags shouldn’t be added “by default” as they could “bear a lot of risks for users”.

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How to opt-out

Facial recognition is an opt-out feature, meaning users have to actively change their settings if they don’t want to use it. In its blog, Facebook says the feature will help people tag their photos more easily and that over 100 million tags are added to photos on the site every day.

The company says that anyone who doesn’t want to use this feature can disable it via the privacy settings on their profile under ‘Account’:

Just click “Customise Settings” and “Suggest photos of me to friends.” Your name will no longer be suggested in photo tags, though friends can still tag you manually. You can learn more about this feature in our Help Centre.
Facebook users have been voicing their concerns over the opt-out nature of the new feature below the company’s blog about its introduction, with some simply saying “get rid of tagging”.
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Susan Ryan


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