Why Europe Is Freaking Out About Facebook Photo Recognition

Last year, Facebook quietly rolled out a facial recognition tool for its photo tagging feature. Perhaps anticipating some backlash, the tool, which can be seen as rather creepy given its ability to tell you apart from your friends, the new tool was added slowly, activated for only a slice of American Facebook users at a time. Last week, the feature was added for users outside of the United States -- and the reaction has been much worse.

On Wednesday afternoon, the European Union data-protection regulators announced a probe to investigate whether the social network's new feature violates privacy rules. "Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people's prior consent and it can't be activated by default," said a Luxembourg official told Businessweek, adding that the regulators intend to "clarify to Facebook that this can't happen like this." And that's a general complaint against Facebook, whose founder believes that the web should be social by default. In addition to the E.U. probe, officials in the United Kingdom and Ireland are looking into this practice.

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