Facebook Facial Recognition Tool Removed in Europe
September 22, 2012

Controversial Facebook Facial Recognition Tool To Be Removed For Europeans

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A controversial facial-recognition tool that points out when registered Facebook users could be tagged in photos uploaded to the popular social network has been disabled for new European users and will be completely removed from the system within a month's time, various media outlets reported Friday.

According to BBC News Technology Reporter Zoe Kleinman, the decision comes in the wake of changes recommended by the Data Protection Commission of Ireland (DPC).

The agency did not request the complete and total removal of the tool. Rather, they asked Facebook Ireland, the arm of the social network responsible for its data outside of the U.S. and Canada, to be more transparent about how the information would be used and to give users greater control over their privacy settings, Kleinman added.

The feature has already been switched off for all new European users who join Facebook, and it will be completely deleted by October 15, PCMag writer Stephanie Mlot explained. The decision came on the same day that the DPC completed a review of the social network's implementation of their previous recommendations, she added.

In a statement addressing Facebook's decision, DPC Commissioner Billy Hawkes said that he was "encouraged in relation to the approach [Facebook Ireland] has decided to adopt on the tag suggest/facial recognition feature" by exceeding the agency's initial recommendations. Similarly, Kleinman said that the move sends "a clear signal of its wish to demonstrate its commitment to best practice in data protection compliance."

However, as Padraic Halpin of Reuters points out, there are still issues that the regulators want Facebook to deal with, including "minimizing the potential for advertising to target users based on words that could be considered as sensitive personal data."

Both parties expressed confidence that the remaining issues would be taken care of in the near future, and each claimed that Facebook had made "progress in providing better transparency for its users, handing them more control over settings and the ability to more readily access their personal data."

"When you think of the very wide ranging investigation the DPC carried out into Facebook, they looked at every aspect of our service, and our overall scorecard is very good," Richard Allan, the social media website's director of policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the BBC.

"In the vast majority of areas the DPC looked into, they found we are behaving in a way that's not just compliant but a reasonable model for good practice."