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Facebook shutting down facial recognition in the EU, gets stamp of approval from Ireland DPC

Sarah Silbert
09.21.12
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Earlier this year, Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, a body whose decisions impact Facebook's policies in Europe at large, made several recommendations to bring the website in line with regional privacy laws, calling for greater transparency on how users' data is handled and more user control over settings, among other things. The DPC just officially announced that Zuckerberg et al. have for the most part adjusted its policies accordingly. The biggest change involves the facial recognition feature, which attempts to identify Facebook friends in photos and suggest their names for tagging. The social network turned off this functionality for new users in the EU -- and it will be shutting it down entirely by October 15th. It's not like Ireland, home to Facebook's European HQ, is the first to give the site flack about such features: Germany was having none of it when the site introduced facial recognition last summer.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson reached out to us with the social network's response to the DPC's announcement, reinforcing the image of one big, happy, privacy regulations-compliant family:

As our regulator in Europe, the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is constantly working with us to ensure that we keep improving on the high standards of control that we have built into our existing tools.

This audit is part of an ongoing process of oversight, and we are pleased that, as the Data Protection Commissioner said, the latest announcement is confirmation that we are not only compliant with European data protection law but we have gone beyond some of their initial recommendations and are fully committed to best practice in data protection compliance.

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