Should Facebook Users Be Required To Approve Photo Tags?

Photo Tagging IconYou know those photos you just posted from the party the other night which included friends who still aren’t on Facebook? O.K., while most of your friends are on Facebook, not all Europeans have caught on to the trend yet, and it appears that European Regulators are looking to protect those individuals. On the heels of an Italian ruling that “held three Google executives criminally responsible for a user-posted video”, the new investigation questions whether companies should be responsible for user-generated content.

Setting a precedent in which companies are responsible for the content uploaded by their users would make operating a freely open service extremely challenging. The rationale behind such a decision is clear, yet when comparing similar actions to the “offline” world, it doesn’t make much sense. For example, an individual could share a photo from the previous night with all of their friends whether or not they have the consent of all the individuals in the photo.

Whether or not it’s legal is not the question, as it’s clear that in such a situation, the burden of obtaining consent falls with the owner of the photo. Why then would European regulators be interested in modifying the policy for the online world? According to Switzerland’s privacy law, “Facebook could be required to contact people whose information has been posted online and ask them whether they agree to its being stored there”.

Whether or not that’s what the current law says, it doesn’t make much sense to place the burden on the company who enables the user to share that content with their friends. Conversely, perhaps it’s the ease with which users can instantly share damaging photos with their friends that makes the current practice questionable.

According to Facebook there is already “a tool for nonusers to have their data removed”. For now it appears that this is the beginning of a much longer privacy battle between European regulators and American internet companies. Do you think all content you upload should be subjected to filters prior to you sharing it with your friends?