Facebook again the subject of criticism

Bryan Cohen Jun. 16, 2011, 1:44am


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen raised concerns on Thursday that consumer privacy is being compromised by Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" feature.

Jepsen is seeking a meeting with company officials to address his concerns over the new feature, which uses facial recognition software to identify users of the popular social media website in photographs, links the photograph with the user's name and stores the information in the company's database without notifying the user. Before the change, users were required to manually tag others in photos and those identified were subsequently notified of the tag.

"In Facebook's desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection - an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent (before Facebook can use those images)," Jepsen said in a letter Tuesday to Facebook's director of public policy and its product and regulatory counsel.

"The lack of an opt-in process for Facebook users is troubling because unknowing consumers may have their photos tagged and matched using facial recognition software without their express consent, potentially exposing them to unwelcome attention and loss of privacy. Consumers must be aware that the digital images of their faces are being coupled by Facebook technology with personal information in their Facebook profiles."

Jepsen asked the company for a meeting "as soon as possible" to answer his questions and address privacy issues. Jepsen is concerned that the facial recognition data may be used for commercial or marketing purposes. Another concern is that the "Tag Suggestions" feature could potentially be used by private individuals to gain access to user information, which could be misused.

"The potential uses of facial recognition on this scale remain unclear, but concerning," Jepsen said. "This important privacy issue needs to be addressed promptly."

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