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Facebook facial recognition investigation reopened in Germany!

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection has said that Facebook is saving images of users’ faces in a database without their explicit consent in violation of European privacy laws.

Imagine THAT! 😉

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had such laws in the United States? :-) Would that be asking too much of Liberty? 😉

Johannes Caspar, a German data protection official has reopened an investigation into Facebook‘s use of facial recognition technology and said that would have to delete all of the data unless it obtained approval from all users. :-)

Facebook says that it notifies European users of the data collection.

My reaction, “BFD” – “Big Flippin’ Deal” 😉 that Facebook notifies users! My personal belief is that there is a desire to establish a worldwide database of biometric data that allows almost-immediate identification of people whose image appears on the ever-proliferating networks of surveillance cameras that exist. The former East Germany would be PROUD! :-) You can read how I feel about the liberty-threatening proliferation of facial recognition systems in my blog entry (“Freedom, in a Technical Age”) of July 4, (that’s right!), 2010.

Recently, Norway, which is NOT a member of the European Union, announced that the Norwegian Data Protection Authority is investigating Facebook’s facial recognition, and Facebook recently acquired, a facial recognition company with mobile apps for facial recognition. Who requested this “feature?” I certainly did not, and I do not believe that incorporation of facial recognition technology into Facebook’s, Apple’s, and Google’s software products resulted from a groundswell of demand from users like you and me!

Caspar suspended his inquiry in June but reopened it after meeting with Facebook repeatedly in a quest to get the social networking giant to change its policy. He told the New York Times that Facebook acknowledged it was collecting users’ biometric data but maintained that the practice was legal in Ireland, Facebook’s European headquarters.

Facebook users have to opt out of — not into — allowing the company to collect facial-recognition data. That’s a hot-button issue in Europe, where data protection laws require users to give their consent. Facial recognition software prompts users to “tag” friends in photos uploaded to the service.

First off – WRONG DEFAULT! Second off – BLAME the IRISH! The Irish did not dream this up – their instructions come from the good old USA.

Irish regulators advised Facebook last year that it could notify users that it was collecting biometric data, but did not have to seek their consent. But in March, the European Union’s advisory panel on privacy found that collecting biometric data without consent violated European law. Irish regulators reopened their investigation after the decision from the Article 29 Working Party.

“We believe that the photo tag suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data protection laws,” Facebook said in an emailed statement. “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.”

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Jeffery Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy asks, “Why should Facebook users be forced to provide the social network with free rein over their most personal information, their physical being?”

Darn good question, indeed!

(To those of you who believe that you can “opt out” of Facebook’s facial recognition, I would only say, “Congratulations on your naiveté. It is almost miraculous that you have retained it in today’s world.” 😉 )

-Bill at

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