Feeds

UK watchdog looking into Facebook face-tech row

Matter for national authorities, says Brussels

The essential guide to IT transformation

Blighty's data regulator the Information Commissioners Office is talking to Facebook about the "privacy implications" of its facial recognition technology, The Register has learned.

However, despite widespread reporting based on a Bloomberg story that suggests that European watchdogs are probing the company over this issue, no such investigation by the EU's executive body is currently underway.

"It is misleading to say that the European Commission is investigating the issue," a Brussels spokeswoman told El Reg.

"EU data protection rules establish criteria for processing personal details and transparency requirements about the use of such data. But it is for the national authorities in member states to monitor and enforce them.

"On the other hand, new technologies bring new challenges all the time and that is why the European Commission is currently reviewing the data protection rules."

We asked the ICO if it was planning to investigate Facebook's decision to quietly slot its facial recognition technology into its network without first informing its users.

"As with any new technology, we would expect Facebook to be upfront about how people's personal information is being used," said an ICO spokesman.

"The privacy issues that this new software might raise are obvious and users should be given as much information as possible to give them the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether they wish to use it.

"We are speaking to Facebook about the privacy implications of this technology."

The watchdog has yet to declare an outright investigation, however, preferring instead to tell us that talks are taking place.

Facebook surprised many privacy advocates earlier this week when it quietly rolled out its facial recognition technology to countries outside of the US, by switching the feature on by default without telling its users first.

The tech, which is set as "opt out" rather than "opt in", works by scanning newly uploaded pics and then identifying faces from previously tagged photos already stored in Mark Zuckerberg's closed-off network.

Many reports pointed out what was essentially Facebook's latest privacy gaffe, after Graham Cluley gave the world's largest social networking site the red flag. The company openly admitted to The Reg and other organs that it "could have been more clear" about the rollout.

That's an after-the-fact statement that may see Facebook marked with yet another privacy scar. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Super Cali signs a kill-switch, campaigners say it's atrocious
Remote-death button bad news for crooks, protesters – and great news for hackers?
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.