Facebook to Suspend Photo Tag Tool
Facebook has often had an uneasy relationship with the privacy of its users, especially as they rely so much on the data we provide through their service to earn them money. Arguably their most controversial new feature, however, has been a tool to let your friends automatically tag you in photos using a facial recognition application.
The new tool caused considerable consternation among both users and privacy campaigners alike. This has culminated in news today that the European Union has blocked use of the facility in Europe.
The move began when the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland raised concerns about the feature earlier this year. The Commissioner, Bill Hawkes, is said to be happy that the tool will be disabled for European users by October 15th.
Mr Hawkes said Facebook "is sending a clear signal of its wish to demonstrate its commitment to best practice in data protection compliance".
Richard Allan, Facebook director of policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: "The EU has looked at the issue of securing consent for this kind of technology and issued new guidance.
"Our intention is to reinstate the tag-suggest feature, but consistent with new guidelines. The service will need a different form of notice and consent."
He went on to say, however, that the tool, and the data it relied upon, was not used in any commercial way, and has not thus far generated any complaints from users.
In December 2011 the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) gave Facebook six months to comply with its recommendations.
Mr Allan continued "When you think of the very wide ranging investigation the DPC carried out into Facebook, they looked at every aspect of our service, and our overall scorecard is very good.
"In the vast majority of areas the DPC looked into, they found we are behaving in a way that's not just compliant but a reasonable model for good practice."
The DPC said, however, that this is not the end of investigations into privacy at Facebook, with another update required of Facebook in four weeks time in order to allay their concerns.
A central point of these concerns is regarding the education of Facebook users over their privacy rights and how to adjust their privacy settings.
"We would also like more information in relation to advertising - there is the potential for the use of terms that could be sensitive - such as ethnicity, trade union membership, political affiliation - to be used by advertisers to target others based on those words," Mr Davis said.