Facebook tagging feature raises questions about privacy

(SPOT.ph) After receiving flak about its facial recognition feature, which automatically enables users to tag people in their photos, Facebook is now being probed by European Union data-protection regulators, reports Business Review USA.

The feature uses facial recognition software to match new photos to older, tagged photos and suggests the name of the person in the photo for tagging, reports Yahoo News. It is set on default, which drew criticism from some security and privacy groups.

Graham Cluley of the security firm Sophos objected to the feature’s opt-in process where users were automatically included unless they alter their settings. In a report by The Guardian, Marc Rotenberg, president of privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, likewise said, "I’m not sure that’s the setting that people would want to choose. A better option would be to let people opt-in." Cluley also added that Facebook prevents users to pre-approve tags. "The onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in," Cluley said.

According to Business Review USA, privacy watchdogs from EU’s member nations will study the software for possible rule violations. Gerard Lommel, a member of EU’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, said that feature "can bear a lot of risks for users" and that the European data-protection officials will "clarify to Facebook that (it) can’t happen like this."

A statement by a Facebook spokesperson said, "We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day... If for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their Privacy Settings." The statement ended with the spokesperson explaining that Facebook should have been clearer about the feature when it was launched.

For more on this story, log on to Business Review USA, Yahoo News, and The Guardian.

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