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UK to probe Facebook's facial recognition technology amid privacy concerns

June 11, 2011 - London

The world's leading social networking site 'Facebook' is poised to be probed by the British authorities after it was criticised for launching its facial recognition technology without giving any prior notice to its users.

The launch of the technology has worried European privacy regulators including the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

"As with any new technology, we would expect Facebook to be upfront about how people's personal information is being used," the Daily Mail quoted an ICO spokesperson, as saying in a statement.

"The privacy issues that this new software might raise are obvious and users should be given as much information as possible to give them the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether they wish to use it. We are speaking to Facebook about the privacy implications of this technology," the spokesperson added.

This feature, which has been expanded from the United States to 'most countries', automatically identifies people in photos without their knowledge.

Its 'Tag Suggestions' feature uses facial recognition technology to speed up the process of labelling friends and acquaintances that appear in photos posted on Facebook. If a user's friend tags his or her photo, the technology will automatically scan the user's face and then try and find matches among all their pictures.

Tagged photos typically appear in the user's photo stream, and his or her friends' streams, depending on the settings.

Although Facebook said that it should have notified members about the global launch, it added that the system introduced with an intention to speed up the process of assigning a name to a picture, known as tagging.

Meanwhile, industry commentators like Sarah Jacobsson Purewal from PC World, has said that the tech is 'super-creepy.'

"It is bascially Facebook's way of creating a huge, photo-searchable database of its users. And yes, it's terrifying," she added.


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