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Thursday, 04 August 2011 10:46

Facebook's facial recognition system is illegal

Written by Nick Farell
facebook

Germans crack down
Social Notworking site Facebook has miffed the Germans again. This time it is the outfit's facial recognition feature that helps users tag photos.

Germany is the first to declare the feature illegal. Hamburg's data protection official Johannes Caspar has ruled that the software violates both German and European Union data protection laws. He is also cross that  Facebook users don't know how to delete the data that Facebook is gathering.

According to the  Hamburger Abendblatt, which is a newspaper and not a cheeseburger, Capsar is worried that if the  data were to get into the wrong hands, then someone with a picture taken on a mobile phone could use biometrics to compare the pictures and make an identification. Facebook has two weeks to respond before German authorities take legal action and fine the outfit half a million dollars.

Caspar has gone for Facebook before. Last year he took it to the cleaners for saving data of people who hadn't even signed up for the social network. The case is very similar. In that situation it took Facebook nearly six months before they finally disabled the feature.

The Germans have some of the strictest data protection and privacy laws in the European Union. They are a little nervy after the informational abuses perpetrated by the Nazis and the Stasi, and German data protection law makes it clear that no data can be collected without the express consent of the user.

We guess that the last thing that Facebook will want is to be compared to the Nazis or the Stasi, but at the moment the outfit seems to be ignoring the Germans. Caspar said that he has  repeatedly asked Facebook to shut down the facial recognition function and to delete the previously stored data.

Facebook's PR team said it  firmly rejected any accusations that we are not complying with our obligations to European Union data protection laws. Of course the are likely to get a good kicking under German data protection laws rather than the EU ones.

Nick Farell

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