The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, a group of 27 national data protection and privacy agencies that advises the European Commission on privacy issues, will probe Facebook over a new feature that uses face-recognition software to suggest people’s names to identify in pictures without their permission, report Bloomberg News.
Facebook, with over 600 million active users, has repeatedly been criticized for not doing enough to protect users’ privacy and implementing new features concerning privacy without asking for users’ consent.
The latest feature sees Facebook scan pictures in which people have already been identified with the help of face-recognition software. On the basis of the results obtained, Facebook then suggests individuals to tag in new photographs added to the site, choosing among the user’s friends. Face-recognition, which is now available in most countries after being phased in over several months, was made active by default on existing Facebook users’ accounts, with users having the option of disabling it manually.
While Facebook claims the purpose of the new feature is to make it easier for users to tag photos, the Article 29 group, as well as several European authorities are to examine the so-called ‘Tag Suggestions’, stating that tags of people on pictures cannot happen without a person’s prior consent and cannot be activated by default.
Facebook officials have admitted that it should have been made clearer to Facebook users when the feature became available to them, and have vowed to provide European regulators with information about Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology.
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