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September 21, 2012

Facebook Caves into European Pressure over Photo Tagging Feature

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Facebook (News - Alert) will soon stop an automated photo-tagging feature in Europe and will eliminate a database which shows the photos of millions of Europeans.

The controversial facial-recognition tool suggests when users could be tagged in photos -- and Facebook was under intense pressure to at least change the program.

The tool will be turned off by Oct. 15 for European users, and will not be available to any new users in the region.

Image via Shutterstock

"(Facebook) is sending a clear signal of its wish to demonstrate its commitment to best practice in data protection compliance,” Billy Hawkes, Data Protection commissioner of Ireland, said.

Meanwhile, Richard Allan, Facebook’s director of policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, issued a statement that the company’s "intention is to reinstate the tag (News - Alert)-suggest feature, but consistent with new guidelines. The service will need a different form of notice and consent."

“We will continue to work together to ensure we remain compliant with European data protection law as we innovate and create new products and features,” Facebook said in a statement.

There were many concerns expressed in Europe – especially from government regulators – because the facial-recognition offering may have violated privacy rights.

Facebook Ireland said the company would get regulator consent “if it chooses to provide the feature to EU users again,” Bloomberg (News - Alert) News said.

The Irish regulator investigated the issues regarding the facial recognition program because Facebook’s European headquarters are in Dublin.

The company’s move in Europe could lead to nations in other regions to increase pressure on Facebook to enact similar photo-tagging policies in their countries.

Facebook has about 235 million users in Europe.

In a related matter, TMCnet reported recently that facial recognition technology may soon replace fingerprints as the top biometric identifier. Eye and facial recognition technology may account for nearly $4 billion of the biometric industry's $11 billion in annual revenue by 2017. The number of cell phones and tablets equipped with facial recognition features is expected to increase to 665 million by 2017.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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