Germany Grumbles at Facebook’s Facial Recognition

Concerns have been expressed in Germany that Facebook are in violation of European privacy laws by implementing their facial recognition feature.

Hamburg’s data protection official Johannes Casper has written to Facebook to demand it stops running facial recognition software on German users and deletes any related data.

Facebook came under heavy criticism in June when they introduced the feature to over 500 million users bringing them to apologise for the way they handled the roll out.

“Should Facebook maintain the function, it must ensure that only data from persons who have declared consent to the storage of their biometric facial profiles be stored in the database,” Casper said.

Facebook have been given two weeks to respond to a letter drafted by Casper and could face fines of up to €300,000 if they are met in court by the German authorities.

Germany is known to take privacy much more seriously than many other countries and has come to blows before with the likes of Google when the company was attempting to implement it’s street view service there.

A Facebook spokeswoman said they were examining Caspar’s request but that it “firmly rejects any accusations that we are not complying with our obligations to European Union data protection laws.”

The European Union’s advisory board is also looking at possible violations from Facebook in addition to individual members states conducting enquiries in Ireland, the UK and Germany.

Furthermore in the US the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the FTC.  A representative from EPIC, Ed Markey demonstrated his support by saying Facebook’s policy should be ‘Ask for permission, don’t assume it.”

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