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Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner confirms deletion of Facebook facial recognition data in the EU

Both the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Germany have independently confirmed today that all Facebook facial recognition data of European Union citizens has been deleted by the social network.

Ciara O’Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, confirmed Facebook’s deletion of controversial facial recognition data that it had been collecting since December 2010, stating that “we recently reviewed the source code and execution process used in the deletion process and can confirm that we were satisfied with the processes used by Facebook to delete the templates in line with its commitment”.

Data protection authorities in Germany also confirmed Facebook’s compliance, stating that “for the time being, it is settled”.

Last September, following a “robust review” of Facebook by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, Facebook committed to deleting facial recognition ‘templates’ for existing users by October 15, 2012. Facebook had already disabled Tag Suggestions to new users in September.

Facebook Tag Suggestions

Facebook Tag Suggestions

Facebook uses facial recognition to suggest whom users should tag in photos. By semi-automating the task of tagging images, Facebook can dramatically increase the number of tagged photos, providing increased social context and social graph data that the company craves.

Facebook last week announced that it had re-enabled Tag Suggestions to users in the United States, which, at first glance, appears to be the same product even after a five month hiatus. It’s odd that such an influential and well-established feature now exists in one market and not the other – something which may harm the overall consistency and quality of the service going forward.

When asked if facial recognition would return to the service in Europe, Facebook stated that “for the moment” no such plans are in place.

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