Feeds

Facebook facial recognition tech 'violates' German privacy law

Social network dismisses Hamburg's data protection claims

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Facebook has rejected claims that its facial recognition technology violates German and EU privacy laws.

Hamburg's data protection authority (DPA) warned (PDF, in German) the dominant social network, which quietly rolled the software into European versions of Facebook earlier this year, that it could be fined if the company failed to delete the "biometric data" it harvests from the tech.

Dr Johannes Caspar, who is Hamburg's data protection commissioner, asked Facebook to "respond quickly" to the regulator's demands.

He said the DPA had "repeatedly" asked Facebook to shut down the facial recognition function.

Facebook's spokeswoman in Germany, Tina Kulow, gave The Register this statement:

"We will consider the points the Hamburg Data Protection Authority have made about the photo tag suggest feature but firmly reject any claim that we are not meeting our obligations under European Union data protection law," she said.

"We have also found that people like the convenience of our photo tag suggest feature which makes it easier and safer for them to manage their online identities."

The tech itself is switched on by default within the closed-off network, which means users have to update their privacy settings within the site to "opt out" of the function. The facial recognition software debuted in the US late last year when Facebook at least had the courtesy to pen a blog post about the feature.

But it failed to do the same thing when the software was folded into the website on this side of the Atlantic in June.

Instead it posted a short retrograde update here, only after Europeans began to protest against its unannounced arrival.

The likes of the UK's Information Commissioner said at the time that it was "looking into" the stealth bolt-on of the facial recognition tech into Facebook.

"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," it told us in June.

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

But, in contrast to Hamburg's DPA, the ICO won't be getting tough with Facebook.

"We have received few if any complaints about this issue so far, however if anyone has any concerns then they can make a complaint to us and we will look into their case further," a spokesman at the watchdog told El Reg earlier this week.

Germany's actions against Facebook, meanwhile, echo its earlier complaints about Google's data slurp via its Street View cars, which led to the world's biggest ad broker reversing its vehicles out of the country. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.