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Monday, June 13, 2011

Privacy groups want an investigation of the Facebook facial recognition tool

There have been some complaints by privacy advocates filed to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), asking them to stop Facebook’s facial recognition service. Facebook uses facial recognition software to tag images to help identify people in photos. These photos are scanned and then compared against previously tagged photos to see if any match. If a match is found, Facebook alerts the person uploading the picture and suggests tagging the person in the photo.

EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has said that Facebook secretly collected facial images for automated online identification. Facebook has an estimated 60 billion photos of individuals in its collection of photos. According to EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg, this violates consumer protection laws and was implemented without user consent. Even though users can opt out of the service, they weren’t notified of the risks associated with the service. Rotenberg said “There is every reason to believe that unless the [FTC] acts promptly, Facebook will routinely automate facial identification and eliminate any pretense of user control over the use of their own images for online identification,”

Facebook said there have been no complaints about the service but the other side states that 'When it comes to users’ privacy, Facebook’s policy should be: Ask for permission, don’t assume it.’ The biggest complaint is that the tagging is turned on by default.

EPIC stated on their site that "the service was unfair and deceptive and urged the FTC to require Facebook to suspend the program, pending a full investigation, the establishment of stronger privacy standards, and a requirement that automated identification, based on user photos, require opt-in consent."

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