Germany Investigating Facebook’s Facial Recognition, Again

By Justin Lafferty 

Europeans are growing increasingly suspicious of Facebook’s facial-recognition efforts. Earlier this month, Norway announced that it is looking into the legality of the social network’s technology. Now, Germany is doing the same. Data-protection officials in Germany worry that Facebook is compiling a photo database of users without their consent, so they are reopening their investigation.

A report in The New York Times shows that German officials have been trying to work with Facebook regarding facial-recognition technology, but apparently to no avail. The data-protection commissioner in Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, addressed why the country is reopening its investigation:

We have no other option but to reopen our investigation. 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.

Earlier this year, Facebook ramped up its facial-recognition efforts when it acquired The move toward facial recognition has come under scrutiny in the U.S., too. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was critical of the technology, unhappy that it would be something that users would have to opt out of, instead of opting in.

This practice is especially a hot-button topic in Europe, the Times writes, where data-protection laws require that users explicitly give their consent to it. Facebook privacy has also been contested in Ireland. The social network agreed to suspend its tagging feature for users who joined the site on or after July 1, but those who have been on Facebook are still subject to it. In a statement to the Times, Facebook defended facial recognition and the issue of consent in Europe:

We believe that the photo tag suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data-protection laws. During our continuous dialogue with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop a best-practice solution to notify people on Facebook about photo tag suggest.

Readers: How do you feel about Facebook’s facial recognition?

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