Norway gov't probes Facebook's facial recognition tech
Facebook's facial recognition technology, which promises an easier time for users in tagging photos, faces an investigation in Norway over privacy concerns.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority is investigating Facebook over privacy concerns regarding the facial recognition tool, Bloomberg reported.
"It's a very powerful tool Facebook has and it's not yet clear how it all really works. They have pictures of hundreds of millions of people. What material Facebook has in its databases is something we need to discuss with them," it quoted Norway's data protection commissioner Bjorn Erik Thon as saying.
But tech site CNET quoted Facebook as saying the tag-suggesting feature is fully compliant with European Union law.
CNET also quoted Facebook as saying it has properly informed users about the technology and that they can turn it off if they wish.
"We have given comprehensive notice and education to our users about tag suggest, and we provide very simple tools for people to opt out if they do not want to use this feature. We stop processing facial recognition data when someone chooses to opt out," it quoted a Facebook representative as saying in a statement.
Bloomberg noted data-protection regulators from the 27-member European Union have been looking into Facebook’s facial-recognition feature.
Earlier this year, the EU’s so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said the feature can only be used with people’s consent.
Joint cooperation with Irish authorities
Bloomberg quoted Thon as saying Norway, which is not part of the EU, is coordinating its investigation with Irish counterparts.
The report said the Irish regulator has been reviewing Facebook’s compliance with Irish and EU data-protection rules since last year.
Facebook's Irish office is the main service provider to users outside the US and Canada.
Bloomberg said an audit report released by the Irish agency in December said Facebook has to overhaul its service in Europe to increase “transparency and controls for the use of personal data for advertising purposes” and to delete “data held from user interactions with the site much sooner.”
The regulator carried out a review of the company’s progress in implementing the changes last month and will release a second report later this year.
Thon said the Norwegian authority plans to send a questionnaire that will probably focus on facial recognition to Facebook once it has seen the Irish report.
CNET noted Facebook started rolling out the Tag Suggestions feature worldwide in June 2011.
The Tag Suggestion features finds faces in a photo and suggests names of the user's friends to make tagging easier.
Since then, it faced backlash from privacy groups in Europe. — TJD, GMA News
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