Regulator In Hamburg, Germany, Still Squawking Over Facebook, Facial Recognition

By David Cohen 

Facebook appeared to have settled concerns within the European Union over its use of facial-recognition technology with Friday’s announcement of an agreement between the social network and Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, but the memo apparently never made it to Hamburg, Germany.

TechCrunch reported that the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information issued an administrative order against Facebook that same day, ordering the social network to alter its tag suggest facial-recognition to comply with EU standards, retroactively and in the future, and saying:

The company has to make sure that biometric profiles of its already registered users will only be created and stored with their active consent. Additionally, users have to be informed about risks of the practice in advance.

The order went on to say that Facebook must delete its existing database if it cannot comply, adding that while that rule would only apply to Hamburg, “Other German authorities have already announced similar administration procedures,” according to TechCrunch.

Johannes Caspar, the regulator in Hamburg, told Bloomberg he had not yet seen the full report from Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, adding that if Hamburg’s concerns were covered, all was fine.

A Facebook spokesperson responded to TechCrunch about both the Hamburg announcement and Facebook’s decision to suspend its use of the tag suggest facial-recognition feature within the EU, saying:

As it has been clearly stated by the Irish DPC earlier today, we are going to work together in order to find the most appropriate way to obtain users’ consent under EU law. Since we did not work out this plan yet, I do not understand what the Hamburg DPA is complaining about.

It’s worth us reiterating that once we have agreed to an approach on the best way to notify and educate users with the DPC, we hope to bring back this useful tool.

Readers: Do you think Facebook will get to the point where it will be able to reintroduce its use of facial-recognition technology in the EU?