Photo Tagging Feature
Facebook is facing a Class Action Complaint filed by one Mr. Carlos Licata in the State of Illinois in United States against its Photo Tagging Feature and asking it to stop its surreptitious collection, use of sensitive biometric data.
Facebook has been collecting photos of its users ever since its existence since more than a decade now. The number of its users has grown to over 1.2 billion today thereby amassing its collection to a staggering figure. It’s collection of photographs had crossed to over 250 billion in 2013 and at present it is believed to be over a trillion.
Facebook users who upload the photos can share their pictures with friends and relatives. These photos once uploaded can be tagged by the user with the names of their friends or relatives who appear in the new photograph.
In an attempt to help its users in tagging with names of his/her relatives or friends, Facebook started a program called “Tag Suggestions” sometime in 2010. In simple terms, this Photo Tagging Feature scanned the photographs of the photos uploaded by the user earlier which were available in its database and from them it compared and recognized the identity of people in the photograph and gave Tag Suggestions to the user in the newly uploaded photo.
Now, the contentious issue being raised in the complaint against this Photo Tagging Feature is that Facebook is concealing the fact that it uses proprietary facial recognition software to scan the uploaded photographs in its database, locate faces, extract unique biometric identifiers associated with faces and determine the identity. The complaint says that Facebook doesn’t disclose its wholesale biometrics data collection practices in its privacy policies. It adds that with the millions of its users in the dark about the nature of its technology, Facebook has amassed the world’s largest privately held database of consumer biometrics data.
The lawsuit claims that Facebook has violated user privacy through its Photo Tagging Feature, but Facebook has refuted this claim of the complainant in the above suit. Not surprisingly, Facebook has till now avoided launching this feature in Europe and Canada presumably on the basis of similar concern of legal action. It seems that if this lawsuit goes against them, Facebook may be forced to take this feature out of the United States too.