European Union data-protection regulators have reportedly said that they are launching a probe of Facebook‘s facial recognition feature, a day after Sophos pointed out that the social network might have reset users’ default settings for the feature.
Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, told Bloomberg Businessweek that “a group of privacy watchdogs drawn from the EU’s 27 nations” will examine the feature for possible privacy violations.
While Facebook provided us with no comment on the matter, a company spokesperson told us yesterday that “We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them.”
Apparentlym the EU Data Protection party agrees, as Lommel told BusinessWeek, “Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people’s prior consent and it can’t be activated by default.”
The product, which was first rolled out last year, has been a subject of much criticism among users and this is the first time that it’s coming under any official regulator scrutiny. How Facebook could be punished is unknown, however it’s clear that the EU is taking the matter seriously.
Granted, Facebook is no stranger to scrutiny from regulators. Most recently, the company’s Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylortestified before a Senate subcommittee about the social network’s privacy practices (which are among the best in the industry).
For a while, Facebook appeared to be under continuous scrutiny from Canada’s Privacy Commissioner for issues related to the Facebook Platform. Some of the investigations eventually led to an agreement.
It’s too early to determine whether or not the EU inquiry will result in anything, but it’s interesting to see the organization move so swiftly following yesterday’s backlash.
Readers, what outcome do you expect to see from the EU’s probe of Facebook’s facial recognition feature?