Facebook Inc. is set to create another controversy. Knowing fully well about the stringent rules in Canada and Europe, the social network is asking them to allow users the option to use its facial recognition technology.
The facial recognition technology rolled out in 2011 but was disconnected from Canadian and European citizens a year after, following protests from privacy advocates and regulators.
The new EU regulation which would take effect next month ensures that privacy rules are stricter, disapproves of pre-ticked-boxes for user-consent and increases the fine for organisations that fail to comply with any of the rules. With Facebook’s new system, there’s a box for users to tick if they choose to “accept and continue” with the face recognition technology and another option for “manage data settings” to turn off the setting.
Moreover, under 18s will not be included in the face-matching database and users who already opted in for the technology are free to do otherwise at any time. When this happens, their face templates will be automatically deleted from the database.
Nevertheless, the data watchdog involved is not entirely satisfied with Facebook’s reviewed privacy terms and is yet to agree with the proposal. The commission is sceptical about the facial recognition technology and is wondering what it stands to gain with the database accumulated. Ireland’s data protection commission told the BBC:
“There are a number of outstanding issues on which we await responses from Facebook. The issue of compliance of this feature with GDPR is there not settled at this point.”
According to the BBC’s analysis, the Facebook’s facial recognition technology helps the social network in target marketing which is its primary source of revenue. Each user who opts in for the technology has a template which is stored in a database. When another user tags this person, and it finds a match, Facebook will notify the people appearing in the photograph to either tag along or do otherwise.
The software detects a scammer who’s attempting to use a stolen picture as their profile picture and also helps the “new friends suggestion” feature. It expands users’ connection, and people will voluntarily spend more time on the site. Users will also be notified or prompted when their friends like a particular ad or page, thereby boosting targeted ads.
The facial recognition technology had landed Facebook into some deep trouble and in fact, faced a class action lawsuit in San Francisco which alleged that it unlawfully used the technology with authorisation from the users. The data watchdog is not sure if this facial recognition technology will meet strict new EU regulations.