Privacy group targets Facebook

Globe Wire Reports / June 9, 2011

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center said yesterday that it will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about Facebook Inc.’s use of facial-recognition technology.

“When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software . . . to match your new photos to other photos you’re tagged in,’’ Justin Mitchell, a Facebook engineer, said in a Facebook blog. “We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.’’

If a Facebook user doesn’t want his or her name used, it’s possible to opt out.

But US Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said that “is no substitute’’ for letting users choose whether to use the feature. Facial recognition “should be able to stand on its own, without an automatic sign-up that changes users’ privacy settings without their permission,’’ he said.

European Union, British, and Irish officials are looking into possible violations of privacy rules.

“We would expect Facebook to be upfront about how people’s personal information is being used,’’ said EPIC’s Greg Jones. “The privacy issues this new software might raise are obvious.’’

Facebook said it is easy to opt out of photo-tagging, “and the fact that we’ve had almost no user complaints suggests people are enjoying the feature.’’

Facebook is under pressure to protect information from 500 million users who play games, post photos, and communicate on the site.