Facebook reintroduces facial recognition feature in European Union

September 4, 2014 - 

Facebook has been quietly restoring elements of its face recognition services in Europe, two years after data privacy advocates removed it, according to a report by TechCrunch.

In 2012, European data authorities condemned Facebook’s (www.facebook.com) facial recognition software, which instantly recognized and suggested the names of friends from the user’s previously posted photos.

The facial recognition technology was partly reinforced from Facebook’s acquisition of Israeli startup Face.com in 2012.

Data authorities disabled the facial recognition feature in the EU in September 2012, in response to a list of features that it called on Facebook to change in its platform, as identified by Ireland’s Data Protection Authority (DPA).

Now, European users are once again seeing the “tag suggest” option after uploading a photo, but it will only work on U.S.-based friends who have enabled the tagging option on their accounts.

Though it is unclear as to why this feature has been reintroduced, it could be that the social networking giant finally addressed the privacy issues DPA officials had with the technology in the first place.

Since Facebook’s international headquarters is based in Ireland, any rulings made in that particular market greatly influences the way the social network operates throughout the European Union.

And even though Facebook removed the facial recognition feature for all new European users, as well as deleted all tag suggest data for existing European users by October 2012, the company cleverly left a loophole to later reintroduce the technology.

“It’s worth us reiterating that once we have agreed on an approach on the best way to notify and educate users with the Data Protection Commissioner, we hope to bring back this useful tool,” a Facebook spokesperson said at the time, making it evident that the company would eventually revisit facial recognition technology as soon as it eased the concerns of regulators.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.