Connecticut concerned about Facebook face recognition

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has asked for a meeting with Facebook executives

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has expressed concern that Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" face recognition feature compromises consumer privacy, and asked for a meeting with company officials.

In Facebook's desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection, which is an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent before Facebook can use those images, Jepsen wrote in a letter this week to Facebook's director of public policy and its product and regulatory counsel.

Jepsen joins European Union (EU) regulators and consumer advocacy groups that are questioning the feature on Facebook.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and three other advocacy groups filed a complaint asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require Facebook to get an affirmative opt-in consent from users before collecting and using their biometric data.

Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" converts the photos uploaded by Facebook users into an image identification system under the sole control of Facebook, without the knowledge or consent of Facebook users and without adequate consideration of the risks to Facebook users, according to the complaint.

"There is every reason to believe that unless the Commission acts promptly, Facebook will routinely automate facial identification and eliminate any pretence of user control over the use of their own images for online identification," it added.

Earlier, security firm Sophos issued a warning that Facebook had activated facial recognition technology on accounts without alerting users about the change. Facebook said last week that the feature was available in most countries.

Jepsen's office said in its statement on Thursday that he was concerned whether facial recognition data will be used for commercial or marketing purposes, and whether the "Tag Suggestions" feature can be used by private individuals to gain access to user information, which may be misused.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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