Facebook to mothball facial recognition in EU

Social networking giant seeks agreement with regulators, but privacy groups remain defiant.

Face scan

Privacy campaigners have welcomed the news that Facebook is to delete the template images it stores of its EU users, following a request by the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

The social networking giant previously stored images of all its members, which are used by facial recognition algorithms to power the 'Tag Suggest' tool.

When a user uploaded a picture to the site, the tool would then suggest tags based on the facial features, dimensions and ratios of the people in the image.

The challenge of securing consent from both the person uploading the photo and the people in the photo may be practically impossible.

The feature had caused considerable concerns regarding privacy at both a legislative and campaigning level.

In April, the EU's privacy watchdog, the Article 29 Working Party, said the tool broke European privacy regulations.

It explained that Facebook-like networks needed to obtain users' express permission before suggesting to the uploader that these people feature in the photos being uploaded to the site.

The Irish data protection commissioner subsequently requested that Facebook Ireland, which is responsible for all users outside the USA and Canada, turn off the Tag Suggest tool for EU users. Facebook has said it will comply by 15 October.

A spokesman for Facebook told IT Pro: "Facebook hopes to turn the feature back on within the EU once we have come to a best practice agreement with our regulators on how to notify and educate people using the tool."

However Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, sounded a note of caution.

"Given the challenge of securing consent from both the person uploading the photo and the people in the photo being scanned, it may be practically impossible to secure an adequate level of consent," Pickles told IT Pro.

"What must not happen is the consent requirement be watered down because it proves difficult," Pickles concluded.

Featured Resources

Unlocking collaboration: Making software work better together

How to improve collaboration and agility with the right tech

Download now

Four steps to field service excellence

How to thrive in the experience economy

Download now

Six things a developer should know about Postgres

Why enterprises are choosing PostgreSQL

Download now

The path to CX excellence for B2B services

The four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Download now

Recommended

Cloud storage: How secure are Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud?
cloud security

Cloud storage: How secure are Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud?

13 Apr 2021
5G will accelerate cyber crime, predicts former White House CIO
5G

5G will accelerate cyber crime, predicts former White House CIO

13 Apr 2021
How to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10
encryption

How to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10

9 Apr 2021
The definitive guide to IT security
Whitepaper

The definitive guide to IT security

9 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
Hackers are using fake messages to break into WhatsApp accounts
instant messaging (IM)

Hackers are using fake messages to break into WhatsApp accounts

8 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021