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Facebook facial recognition called illegal

The Local · 3 Aug 2011, 09:20

Published: 03 Aug 2011 09:20 GMT+02:00

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By using state of the art technology, Facebook is able to suggest which friends might be in photos that users upload. But the feature has raised concerns among privacy advocates, who worry the site is saving sensitive biometric data.

Although users can opt out of the service, this only prevents Facebook from identifying them in photos automatically - it does not stop the service from gathering data from photos.

Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data protection official, on Tuesday said the feature was a serious violation of people’s rights to determine what is done with their personal data. He added that German authorities would take quick legal action if Facebook did not comply with his demands.

This could include fines of up to €300,000 ($426,000), Caspar said.

“Should Facebook maintain the function, it must ensure that only data from persons who have declared consent to the storage of their biometric facial profiles be stored in the database,” he said.

Facebook also came under fire in Germany recently after a series of real-life parties organized through the social networking site unexpectedly attracted thousands of people, causing crowd-control headaches for the police.

But the latest data protection controversy seems more reminiscent of German authorities’ battles with Google over its Street View mapping service, which many Germans felt was a violation of their privacy.

Story continues below…

The Local/DPA/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:39 August 3, 2011 by nashv
This is getting old. Google+ also uses a similar service. And it is completely legal for them to do so , if you choose to upload photographs to the service.
09:45 August 3, 2011 by freechoice
sooner or later, they will pounce on Google soon!
09:47 August 3, 2011 by mos101392
Not sure why it seems Germans are the first to snub new technology? Could it be that they mistrust anything not German made? Do the really believe German "quality" is superior to "ALL" others? As with most situations, if you have nothing to hide, why does it matter. Who cares if anyone can see my house on Google!...who cares if someone recognizes my face on Facebook! Again, if you have nothing to hide!!!!!
10:06 August 3, 2011 by frankiep

"if you have nothing to hide, why does it matter?"

Very true. You are absolutely right.

So....now that we have that settled....how about showing us all your bank statements from the past couple of years. While you're at it, let's start recording your private conversations and phone calls for everyone to have a listen to later on. An inspection of your home every now and then, to be conducted by someone at random, is something might also be a fun idea. Surely you don't object to any of this since you obviously don't earn any of your money from illegal activities, your conversations aren't about planning illegal activities, and your home doesn't contain any illegal or incriminating material. I'm sure you will agree to this since you haven't done anything wrong and therefore have nothing to hide.
10:12 August 3, 2011 by paulfilkin
Everything is illegal in Germany... if you don't like it don't use it. Nobody is forced to use facebook. The whole concept of social networking is based around this kind of thing and I'm sure we'll see more innovation than this in the future. If people don't want their personal data on the internet then don't put it there in the first place... or at least wake up and be careful about what you do.
10:43 August 3, 2011 by HistoryProffessor
Correct me if I am wrong, last time I checked Facebook was not a German company or even physically located in Germany. There are no reason why the company should have to follow German simply because Germans use it. This is stupid and there is zero grounds for arguement what so ever.

If Germans want their privacy, tell them to stop using facebook, simple solution.
11:13 August 3, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ nashv

You are right, Google offered facial recognition on Picasa since 2008. However, it removed face-finding tech until privacy issues could be resolved.

@ paulfilkin

If it would be so easy to solve the problem just by cancelling your Facebook account ... Unfortunately you can be sure that even if you do not have a Facebook account, you can be found in the pictures your friends uploaded on their accounts.

A big problem with Facebook is that is signing up users automatically to new developments instead of asking them first. Facebook is worldwide under constant criticism for how it handles privacy issues - maybe this is why Google+ focused its promotion on this aspect.

@ mos101392

Why do you want to turn this subject into anti-German propaganda? Do you have something more than anecdotal evidence to back up your allegations? I hope you do not equal (non)privacy-related tools to new technology.
13:17 August 3, 2011 by elboertjie
I have my privacy to hide, that is why it is called privacy.

The difference between being confidential and private, is that being confidential things are not placed online at all and with being private it is with sharing information with only those that I select, such as friends.

Thus, confidentiality is different from privacy.
13:18 August 3, 2011 by danclarkie

Sure I've no problem with all of the things you set out since I don't break the law, take a look at my bank statement if you want I really do not care. You want to read my boring banal emails between my mum and me? Fill your boots mate.

Provided it does not disturb me in my day to day like "as routing random home inspections would" then I do not care.

Germany forces levels of secrecy upon me that I do not ask for or want.

Remind em again, was it data protection that bought down the Berlin wall, kickstarted the arab summer, etc, etc or was it the openness of information?

If you don;t want to be facial recognised and tagged on Facebook then don't open an account. you may get shot in other peoples photos but without your name and details to link the photo to you are equally as anonymous as if you were not tagged.

Keep backing people into a corner, controlling the opneness of their information. It is working very well.

In my experience Germans don't want THEIR information shared but do want YOUR information shared.

P.S I've a CD full of tax evaders Swiss bank details if anyone is interested.

Yours for the bargain price of €3million of taxpayers money.
13:36 August 3, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ danclarkie,

You say that openness of information brought down the Berlin wall and kick-started the Arab revolts? Then I guess you could say that electricity did the same thing.

How exactly do Germany force level of secrecy upon you? German laws allow people to protect their privacy, but in no way restrict you from sharing your personal data or whatever else you want to share with the world.

Apparently you do not understand what tagging in Facebook means, if you claim that it does not involve one's name and that it maintains one's anonymity. So closing the Facebook account is not the solution.
13:59 August 3, 2011 by MrOlsen
Germans are still afraid of the Stasi.
14:00 August 3, 2011 by frankiep

Let me guess. You interpret the novel '1984' as a heartwarming story of a utopian paradise vigilantly guarded by a benevolent force which protects it's subjects via complete and total access and control over every miniscule detail of daily life, and this system's victory over an antisocial terrorist-in-the-making who wanted to keep some personal things for himself and therefore did "have something to hide".

Either that or you work for, or benefit from the existence of, the United States Department of Homeland Security.

And your statement:

"Provided it does not disturb me in my day to day like "as routing random home inspections would" then I do not care."

Is especially ironic when you take a second to consider that you are living in Germany and it has had a not so proud history concerning this exact mentality. In this case I am quite pleased that most Germans apparently recognize the inherent evil in the "if you're not doing anything wrong you should have nothing to hide" mentality and are standing up for privacy rights.
14:20 August 3, 2011 by danclarkie

I didn't say German LAW forces levels of secrecy upon my I said Germany forces secrecy upon me.

Namely my employer.

With regards to tagging by name I am fully aware of what Tagging on Facebook means and that you can set your settings to prevent other people from tagging you, you can also remove previously tagged photos of you. Big deal


Those are all people tagged with my name, one of them is me.


All we have learned for this back and forth is you have given me reasonable grounds to suspect that you may be involved in some banking transactions that you would rather the authorities were not made aware of :/

@frankiep I assume you are addressing me?

if the government want to enter your property to look for something, trust me, they will. It's what lets us sleep at night.

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
15:14 August 3, 2011 by frankiep

Yes, if officers of the government want to enter my property to look for something they will most certainly do that, provided they have reason to suspect me of having committed a crime and presented these suspicions to the courts and ask for, and receive, permission. It's called due process and it protects people from overzealous "law enforcement officers" who see a criminal or terrorist wherever they look and who immediately think that anyone who likes to keep his affairs to himself it automatically a national security threat.

No, what lets us sleep at night is not a government, or government officers, who believe that it is their right to know all the details about what we do, and who will use this perceived right to dig into the personal affairs who they think are acting "funny". What lets us sleep at night are the systems we have in place to protect us from exactly the kind of tyranny you are advocating.
15:34 August 3, 2011 by Asgarli
Having such rückständig (can't find a better English word) attitudes, Germany will never go ahead.
15:48 August 3, 2011 by catjones
German Luddites are always trying to put the genie back into the bottle and are the laughing stock of the technical world. They will forever be known as the country that blurs public buildings.
16:09 August 3, 2011 by frankiep
"Having such rückständig (can't find a better English word) attitudes, Germany will never go ahead."

Absolutely. After all, it is not as if Germany is a world leader in exports. Or as if Germany has done a better job of navigating itself through the global financial crisis then most other countries (especially the ones who are so keen on immediately embracing the new flavor of the month without even knowing what it is exactly). Or as if Germany is almost single handedly keeping the rest of the economies in Europe afloat.

No, you're absolutely right. The reluctance of Germans to embrace technology which raises serious concerns about privacy, and which are already being used today to dig into the personal lives of millions of innocent people, is a sure sign that Germany is a backwards nation.
19:47 August 3, 2011 by marimay
If my friends weren't scattered across the globe, I wouldn't have stupid facebook or any social networking nonsense. The majority of people do not have my problem so what the hell do they use it for? lol Go outside and hang out.. sheesh.
21:47 August 3, 2011 by paulfilkin

If you don't have a facebook account how are you tagged in photos with anything meaningful?
10:46 August 4, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ danclarkie

Ahh, now I understand. Germany forces secrecy upon you because you signed a confidentiality agreement with your employer. Well, following your logic, all countries that allow confidentiality agreements are forcing secrecy upon citizens. Is there any that don't?

I am sure you would admit that there are people with not so common name. For them, a search with their name would narrow the possibilities to only a handful, making it easy to determine exactly which one (s)he is.

Otherwise, yes, you are caught me, I am involved in some shady banking transactions that I want to hide from the authorities :). Or it might be that, for example, I would not want business partners to use in negotiations things that they could find out from my private life.

@ catjones

Yes, Germany will be known as the country that where you are able to blur your building in Street View. Wait, that can also be Australia. Oh, also Austria and other countries.

@ paulfilkin

Facebook tagging allows also the use of the names of people that don't have a Facebook account (anymore). I would say the name is something meaningful.
21:46 August 4, 2011 by Paralegal123
Facebook facial recognition called illegal

I am a citizen of the United States, and I found the article concerning Facebook;s use of technology and its implications concerning the gathering of biometric data disturbing. The actions of Facebook in using this technology may seem innocent and a sign of progress; however, the invasion of privacy that ensues is not worth any alleged benefits.

Privacy is a valid concern in this age of technology, especially when the person whose privacy is being intruded upon has no control over the use of the data that is obtained. In the twenty first century, technological advances are gradually eliminating physical barriers at the cost of individual privacy and confidentiality.
08:25 August 6, 2011 by oneforall

>> Absolutely. After all, it is not as if Germany is a world leader in exports.

Not any longer, they have been taken over by the Chinese since quite a while now. ;-). Quality of exports, now that's a different question.
13:37 August 6, 2011 by paulfilkin

I don't think a name is meaningful at all, and I doubt Facebook would attempt to match anything without a Facebook account. What would be the point? If that sort of conspiracy talk is really meaningful then this whole Facebook discussion is a drop in the ocean and probably years too late... if it was meaningful ;-)
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