Facebook may have privacy battle on two fronts

As EU starts probe into facial recognition, letter about to go to FTC

Facebook said it's working with European Union regulators to resolve criticism about its new facial recognition feature, but trouble may also be brewing for the social network here in the U.S.

On Wednesday, Facebook's move to enable facial recognition across its entire social networking site raised complaints from privacy advocates and some users over the feature's privacy implications.

The EU's data protection regulators were quick to jump on the issue, telling the Bloomberg news service they will launch an investigation into it. Bloomberg also reported that authorities in the U.K. and Ireland are looking into the matter.

However, Facebook said today it's already working with the EU to answer their questions and try to quell their privacy fears.

"We have heard the comments from some regulators about this product feature and we are providing them with additional information, which we are confident will satisfy any concerns they will have," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld.

But Facebook may have to deal with this issue on more than one front.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said today that he is working on a letter of complaint that he plans to send to the Federal Trade Commission. He said the letter should be ready to go today or tomorrow.

"I think that's likely," Rotenberg said.

On Tuesday, Facebook said in a blog post that it has been working to make it easier for users to tag photos of their friends and family members. To do this, it has been quietly rolling out facial recognition technology to a test group across the world's biggest social network since late last year.

That means Facebook's system will be able to recognize the faces of its 500 million to 600 million users worldwide.< /p>

Facebook noted that in just a few weeks, its system will scan all photos posted to Facebook and will offer the names of the people who appear in the frame. All of Facebook's users are automatically added to the database. The facial recognition feature is automatically turned on. Users who don't want the service must manually opt out of it.

Facebook has been criticized over the past year on a few occasions over privacy issues.

Last fall, it was learned that some of Facebook's most popular applications, including such as FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille, had been sending users' personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies.

In November, the company ran into more privacy complaints over the release of its new messaging system - Facebook Messages.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Gov't Legislation/RegulationsecurityregulationWeb 2.0 and Web AppsElectronic Privacy Information CentergovernmentFacebookprivacy

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?