Facebook is one of those social networks that continues to gain an ever-growing ambivalence by users and officials more and more lately. Many took issue with the Timeline update that still continues to affect users to this day that did not want it in the first place. There are also continuing security worries when it comes to spamming, malware, phishing and so forth, but Facebook has taken some initiative to do away with some of that.
Now a new concern has arisen in Germany this week. A data protection commissioner from the city of Hamburg named Johannes Caspar has stated that an re-opening of an older investigation from last year is taking place to reexamine software that Facebook uses to recognize people’s faces.
This software has the capability to store a user’s face into their database if they have been referenced or “tagged” enough on the site. When someone is tagging a series of photos, they might be asked by Facebook if one of the people is the photo is “Matt” or any other given name. Caspar says this kind of action by Facebook is a direct violation of European Union privacy rights and data protection laws.
Caspar also says that Facebook is collecting the data without any consent from the users, which makes the matter even worse when it comes to privacy. Though this situation has been going on for quite some time, the reopening of the case that Caspar had ended this past June was prompted after continuous dialogue between Facebook and the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (Facebook’s European headquarters are in Dublin).
The way in which Facebook was conducting the software was legal according to an audit by the Irish, but it was also said that more had to be done to let users know.
European users now have nothing to worry about, since Facebook says the feature has been done away with.
Still, the very act itself continues to raise questions about how freely Facebook can treat their users without gaining consent for such private matters. Is it right for people who willingly sign up for Facebook to give up some of their privacy rights? The reasonable answer would of course be no, yet they seem to have gotten away with quite a number of basic violations in the past.
With the attention that Germany and Ireland have given to Facebook and privacy, this should hopefully open the eyes of fellow nations as well. Facebook’s influence will only continue to get larger, along with many other social networks. Keeping track of privacy will only need to increase in size as well.
Michael is happy to contribute this piece to Tech Fanas. While he writes for many tech blogs, his writing can also be found on various science, music and entertainment blogs such as Relatively Interesting, Digital Dish Satellite, Tech Rife and others.