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Facebook switches off facial recognition feature in EU – Pub anyone?

Due to privacy concerns, Facebook will be switching off its face recognition tagging tool in the European Union.

The concerns are based on recommendations made by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) last year which claimed that the tagging tool was not in line with European Union data privacy laws.

What does this mean for you?

Ever woken up with a monster hangover and a hazy recollection of events from the night before? I’m sure I didn’t do anything embarrassing… did I? Well yes, yes you did, and now your crazy drunken antics are plastered all over Facebook for everyone to see. Oh the shame!

If this sounds familiar, you’ll soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief as the ‘tag suggestion’ feature Facebook uses to automatically tag you in those incriminating photos will soon be removed.

The feature has been the center of debate ever since it was automatically enabled last year with users having to ‘opt-out’ via a button buried somewhere in the settings menu.

When will it happen?

New Facebook users will have the feature automatically switched off on sign-up. Existing users will have the feature disabled by October 15th 2012.

Billy Hawkes, who led the initial investigation and subsequent audit, said Facebook had gone beyond recommendations by totally abandoning the face-rec tech in the EU.

“I am particularly encouraged in relation to the approach it 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 best practice,”

Failure to comply with these recommendations would mean Facebook facing an £80,000 fine. Although Zuckerburg could probably pay the fine with money found in his couch, Facebook will want to avoid as much bad press as possible right now in light of poor recent company figures.

A Facebook spokesperson said:

“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.”

So… drink anyone?

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