Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB): Germany Re-opens Investigation into Facial Recognition Technology

Violation of users ‘privacy is a constant thorn in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s business strategy that refuses to go away. German authorities are now revisiting Facebook's facial recognition technology saying that the company was illegally amassing a database of its users ‘picture without their permission.

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When the facial recognition technology was first introduced it created a storm of protest from users saying that it had the potential for misuse and was a blatant violation of privacy.

Germany's data protection officials who had been investigating this earlier dropped it in June this year, hoping to convince Facebook to change its policies through bilateral talks.

However with the social networking site showing no signs of responding to these overtures, Germany’s data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar said he had no alternative but to re-open the investigations.

“We have no other option but to reopen our investigation,” Caspar told the New York Times in an interview. “We have met repeatedly with Facebook but have not been able to get their cooperation on this issue, which has grave implications for personal data.”

Facebook's facial recognition technology uses analytical software that can compile archives of users' photos and prompts them to tag people whom they know. In Europe this constitutes a grave violation of data protection laws that require companies to get specific permission from users.

The German regulator has demanded that the company should destroy the photographic database that it has acquired in Germany and make appropriate changes to its policies so that subscribers have the choice to opt-in or opt-out from this technology.

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Facebook's contention is that this practice is legal in Ireland where its European operations are based.

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