Facebook’s Facial Recognition Methods under scrutiny in Norway

Facebook in problems

Facebook, currently World’s leading social network has been going through a rough patch during the last few weeks. With their shares going down in the stock market and Facebook stats revealing that it has around 8 million fake users, it was highly unlikely that anything else could go wrong. Unfortunately it has, as Facebook’s facial recognition tool, that helps you tag images by recognizing the faces in your photos when you upload them to Facebook, is going to be probed this fall in Norway by Norwegian data Protection agency as a threat to the privacy of users.

The Facebook Facial Recognition Tool, released in June 2011 by Facebook and set as default in all user accounts, has caused problems with different Data Protection Agencies in Europe. The tool is very effective when it comes down to tagging photos that you have just Uploaded on Facebook. Facebook uses software similar to that found in many photo editing tools to match your new photos to other photos you're tagged in. The feature groups similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggests the names of your friends in the photos.

Facebook face recognition Tagging

The Norway Data Protection look at it with a different perspective, considering it a very powerful tool. The Norway Data Protection Commisioner states,

"It's a very powerful tool Facebook has and it's not yet clear how it all really works."
He added, "They have pictures of hundreds of millions of people. What material Facebook has in its databases is something we need to discuss with them."

The Norwegian authority plans to send a questionnaire that will probably focus on facial recognition to Facebook. They are cordinating with Irish Data Protection agency regarding this matter. This is because most of Facebook’s services for countries other then US and Canada are handled from Ireland.

Previously, in 2011, Norway's Data Protection Agency worked with the other Nordic countries to gain more knowledge about the social networking site's privacy policy and has been on constant alert on Facebook’s privacy policies.

Facebook’s facial recognition tool has already come under fire once when the European Union Data Protection Working Party made it clear that this feature should be allowed with users consent. 

Facebook, on the other hand is maintaining the stance that it has made the users aware of the service and users are autonomous to choose this service. A statement clarifies their view further.

"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," a Facebook representative said in a statement. "We stop processing facial recognition data when someone chooses to opt out."

The importance Facebook places on facial recognition technology was shown in June when it purchased Face.com.

This matter is likely to gain more momentum once the inquiry is officially launched. Stick around to find out more on this issue soon.

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