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.