Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) has suspended its automatic photo-tagging feature for European users in response to pressure from EU regulatory agencies for protecting privacy rights. The function was based in part on technology developed by Israeli start-up Face.com, which Facebook acquired earlier this year for $60 million, after the two companies began collaborating in June 2011.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said that the company would delete for existing European users the data it has collected from its facial-recognition function by October 15. The feature is already unavailable to new users.
Facial identification has been at the center of a debate on the features Facebook offers its users. German and Norwegian regulators examined whether the technology violated data protection laws.
"The Financial Times" said, "The company began working with the Irish data protection authority in September 2011 after an Austria-based group called Europe versus Facebook made 22 complaints. Facebook is subject to ongoing audits of its privacy from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner." Facebook's European headquarters are located in Ireland.
Facebook said in response, "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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