SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has discontinued use of its face recognition tagging tool in Europe following objections from regulators.
The move - which will see Facebook turn off the feature, deleting existing templates by 15 October - is based on recommendations made by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) last year that said Facebook's "tag suggest" feature wasn't in line with European Union data privacy laws.
An audit completed by the agency in December 2011 recommended 45 changes to the social network's features to improve user privacy protections. The DPC gave Facebook six months to comply with its recommendations.
At the time, Facebook agreed to be more transparent about its face recognition tool in relation to users' data, including how data is handled, increased user control over settings, and the ability for users to delete personal data. Though the DPC didn't request that Facebook remove the tagging feature completely, DPC Commissioner Billy Hawkes has welcomed Facebook's decision to discontinue using it.
"I am particularly encouraged in relation to the approach [Facebook Ireland] has decided to adopt on the tag suggest/facial recognition feature by in fact agreeing to go beyond our initial recommendations, in light of developments since then, in order to achieve the best practice," Hawkes said in a statement.
If Facebook hadn't imoplimented the changes, it could have faced a fine of up to £80,000. That still stands if it doesn't comply with the DPC's recommendations in other areas.
A Facebook spokeperson told The INQUIRER, "As our regulator in Europe, the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is constantly working with us to ensure that we keep improving on the high standards of control that we have built into our existing tools.
"This audit is part of an ongoing process of oversight, and we are pleased that, as the Data Protection Commissioner said, the latest announcement is confirmation that we are not only compliant with European data protection law but we have gone beyond some of their initial recommendations and are fully committed to best practice in data protection compliance," the spokeperson added.
According to the DPC's review, the majority of its recommendations have been implemented by Facebook. However, the DPC said there are still some areas where more work is required, and it has asked for an update from Facebook in these areas in a month.
Facebook said it intends to turn the feature back on within the EU "once we have come to a best practice agreement with our regulators on how to notify and educate people using the tool."
Earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg heralded mobile as the key to Facebook's future success during his first interview since the social network's poor stock market debut.
Speaking at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Zuckerberg admitted that the performance of his company's stock has been disappointing, but promised that Facebook's mobile performance will see the company bounce back.
Zuckerberg said that the company wasted two years relying on HTML5 instead of focusing on mobile app options, admitting, "We burned two years not working on mobile." µ
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