Germany Tells Facebook To Destroy Face Recognition Database

from the no-innovation-allowed dept

I've already noted that I don't understand the fuss over Facebook's facial recognition feature -- but plenty of people (including many of you) completely disagree. And, so do regulators in Germany, apparently. As they've suddenly re-opened their investigation of the feature (jumping on the bandwagon with Ireland and Norway) and told Facebook that it needs to destroy its database of faces collected in Germany, and change the system so that people have to opt-in, rather than opt-out.

Of course, I'm still wondering how this is different than existing tagged images. If my friend Joe "tags" me in an image, then Facebook already has that info. Is it that different if Facebook's system tagged me or if Joe tags me? Should Joe have to first get permission from me to identify me in a photo? That seems like a stretch.


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    Lisa Westveld (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 12:58am

    German laws are becoming less real every day. Okay, I don't like facial recognition in facebook either, since it allows people to follow me on pictures taken by others, where I've been tagged. It could one day even result in some freak who takes a picture of my face on the street to use that picture to track my own facebook profile and all information that I share, plus what others share about me.
    If this technique continues then I could end up with a bunch of stalkers who find out who I am, where I live, where I work, simply by taking a picture of me.

    But having to destroy that database? That's over the top. It should stay, but each facebook member must give permission first before she can be tagged. (Yes, opt-in instead of opt-out.)

     

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      Bas Grasmayer (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 1:59am

      Re:

      Just don't let yourself be tagged by others (you can turn it off or only allow pre-approved tags), or make it clear to your friends that you do not appreciate them uploading pictures of you.

       

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        Bas Grasmayer (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 2:00am

        Re: Re:

        * that was in reply to the middle part, not the last line.

         

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        Lisa Westveld (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 2:37am

        Re: Re:

        I prefer to turn on these kinds of things, not turn off these things. If Facebook would have used an opt-in option then they'd never have this problem. Then again, no one would use it either...

        The biggest drawback of Facebook isn't what I decide to put online about me. It's what others put online about me.

         

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        John Fenderson (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 10:14am

        Re: Re:

        Just don't let yourself be tagged by others


        True, and in isolation no big deal, but for me, the facial recognition was pretty much the final straw that got me to delete my FB account.

        It was just getting to be too much of a burden to constantly have to defend myself against FB.

        But I think my response (leave Facebook) was the correct one, and Germany's response is over the top.

         

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    drew (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 12:59am

    Same point as before

    I can ask my friends not to tag me in certain scenarios, I can't do the same with an automated system.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 1:30am

    Huh???

    "Is it that different if Facebook's system tagged me or if Joe tags me?"

    I'm not sure how you can ask this question with a straight face.

    Of course it's different if a human who knows you tags you in a photo vs an automated system. The human who is tagging you is doing it for a specific reason, it's a social behavior between acquaintances/friends. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the automated system doing it as well, but there is definitely a huge difference.

    Suffice to say that there are some groups of friends that don't tag photos because they don't need to, as in everyone in the group knows each other. There may be many cases out there where people simply don't want to be tagged automatically in a photo.

    It may be that this is a generational divide.

     

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    Dionaea (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 1:48am

    Actually...

    "Should Joe have to first get permission from me to identify me in a photo?"

    At least one dutch political party supports this, not sure which it was though.

     

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    Don, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 3:22am

    Need more control

    Maybe they have some reasoning we don't know about. Maybe they're afraid the data could be stolen and used to find the Chancellor's daughter in a bunch of non-facebook images.

    Whatever, I think terrorists having access to streetview is a bigger issue.

     

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    Wolfy, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 3:44am

    Stay out of other peoples' pictures. Problem Solved.

     

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    QueenBee, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 3:56am

    What if

    I think you'll see the problems when you are automatically tagged in a photo of one of your friends. Your friend has a public profile. Your employer sees that photo, decides that he doesn't like (for whatever reason) and kicks you out.

    And yes, things like that do happen. Job experts are telling us to be real careful with photos and all, and that's not for naught.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 7:21am

      Re: What if

      I think you'll see the problems when you are automatically tagged in a photo of one of your friends. Your friend has a public profile. Your employer sees that photo, decides that he doesn't like (for whatever reason) and kicks you out.

      And yes, things like that do happen. Job experts are telling us to be real careful with photos and all, and that's not for naught.


      Again, how is that different than if that same friend tags you directly?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: What if

        What if you're not friends and you don't even know each other?

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

        Re: Re: What if

        "Again, how is that different than if that same friend tags you directly?"

        Let's say your friend tags you sitting at dinner with your parents... nice shot, right? A couple of weeks later, you guys sneak out the the night club for a wild time with stripper twins you met, and your friend says "Don't take any pictures of me", so you are careful to avoid him. Sadly, in a single image, he is in the background getting his head slapped by stripper titties.

        Automated system tags the image, and everyone suddenly knows that he was there, automatically pushed out as an update for everyone to enjoy. How nice!

        If you cannot understand why an automated system is bad, just go back and consider your objections to the various "infringement bots" that are out there. Are you suggesting that automated is actually okay?

         

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          JMT (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 7:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: What if

          "Sadly, in a single image, he is in the background getting his head slapped by stripper titties."

          I imagine facial recognition software would struggle with that scenario...

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2012 @ 5:36am

        Re: Re: What if

        Are you trolling Mike ? (playing devils advocate)

        Tagging is bad enough for people, but facial recognition is a whole different ballgame.

        Facial recognition is dangerous for everyone.
        With the rise of cctv everywhere, you will be constantly followed, STALKED by whoever has access.
        Facebook using this tech will only cause problems for peoples privacy.

        It has no valid use except for "law" enforcement.
        We all know that the people in power never misuse the law as a tool to get/maintain power and control.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 4:02am

    Maybe they have to pay GEMA first...

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 4:20am

    Perhaps..

    Every individual should take out image rights and sue anyone who uses your image in any way without consent. That's the MPAA way.

     

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    Steve, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 4:38am

    If you don't like being tagged...

    ... by humans or software don't join facebook. You do have a choice.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2012 @ 10:38pm

      Re: If you don't like being tagged...

      I did this. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop idiots from adding my name to public images anyway. Given that I've been stalked recently, I'm not at all sanguine that there really is any way to protect myself, especially since many people (mostly the men in my family) don't seem to understand why they really really need to stop uploading pictures that include me and putting my name on them.

      Facebook is so ubiquitous at this point that simply not joining is inadequate protection against privacy breeches of various sorts. User stupidity cannot be routed around.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 4:56am

    Facebook's policy of assuming its users want something (opt out vs. opt in) is why I finally shut it off permanently. For me, the last straw was hijacking my displayed email address and changing it to the Facebook email.

    I'd say that I'd keep in touch with my friends via email, but they're all such Facebook addicts that my emails get ignored for days, even weeks at times, while they share the minutia of their lives on an hourly basis.

     

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    Steve, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:18am

    I believe, I may be dumb!

    Just had a thought. Does this mean that even though i'm not on Facebook, if someone tags me in a photo of theirs i will automatically be tagged in others photos?
    If so, where the fuck is my opt out!

     

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:52am

      Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

      Bloody hell, you may have a good point there. I deleted my Facebook account ages ago but my friends are still there and any photos they take on nights out are still there. I'm curious now as to where we stand on this.

       

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      Wally (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 6:28am

      Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

      You cannot be tagged if you aren't a FaceBook user.

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 6:36am

        Re: Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

        So it's not like metadata tags on music files then?

        I was under the impression that it was just tagging so that there was a nice caption under the picture saying the names of the people in them.

         

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          Wally (profile), Aug 17th, 2012 @ 7:02am

          Re: Re: Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

          It is totally different from Metadata in a music file. If you download the image, the tags won't be there in the downloaded image.


          As for the caption, yes you can tag people in your comments just by typing their names (again optional). The caption is just a commentary really. Sort of like a "Me and Joe Schmo were here having a good relaxing time in the sun" kind of thing.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

            And what stops them from parsing that information to identify the faces of people without accounts? Not a damn thing.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:09am

        Re: Re: I believe, I may be dumb!

        Yes you can.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:19am

    Just as most people do not understand that socialism is nothing but another form of slavery most people do not understand that being able to constantly track people is a form of totalitarianism.

    On socialism if you are responsible for your neighbor then your neighbor has a lean on the products of your labor which for most people represents a uninvited liability. The only different between that demand on your labor and chattel slavery is that in chattel slavery you would receive your subsistence directly from the person who commands your labor while in the present form you receiv your subsistance directly from the government an organization of slave masters.

    On that take tracking is nothing more than electronic chains which have the same function as real chains nothing but a means of forcing people to provide the required commanded level of involuntary work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:29am

    Getting 'tagged' in Facebook is something you can opt-out of.

    You fucking buffoon.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:31am

    Letís Nationalize Facebook

    Letís Nationalize Facebook

    Only then will the social network protect usersí rights and share valuable data with researchers.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/08/facebook_should_be_nat ionalized_to_protect_user_rights_.html?wpisrc=slate_river

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 6:26am

      Re: Letís Nationalize Facebook

      If we're going to get into wishful thinking how about we just get rid of facebook!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:29am

      Re: Letís Nationalize Facebook

      "Were Facebook nationalized, its privacy problems would not evaporate. They would double. The obscure (and, for some, concerning) uses Facebook makes of data in commerce would be joined by secret uses of data and equivocal denials by military spymasters.

      Would Facebook be prevented from ďserving authoritarian interestsĒ? Tell that to the activist/whistleblower who has been driven into the arms of Ecuador, of all countries, because he fears extradition to the United States.

      Public utility regulation of social media has already been made mincemeat. Nationalizing Facebook is indeed a nonstarter."

      from http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/yes-nationalizing-facebook-is-a-nonstarter/

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 5:52am

    Imagine when people find out how much they are tracked by their cellphones and cars.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 6:21am

    I agree with Germany

    Cameras are everywhere and you never know when you are going to wind up on someone's list somewhere.
    One or two of those people that you don't know may commit a crime and during the course of the investigation all of the social media sites that they subscribe to will be looked at and if your picture pops up on the account then you will become a "person of interest" even though you don't know the person or their friends.
    You have not committed a crime but you may wind up getting yourself a lawyer and losing time from work.
    Guilt by association may get you some jail time.

    Zuckerberg thinks that everyone should share everything.
    He doesn't have a clue what the real world is like.

    Google does the same thing and I have tried to opt out of all their crap and so far I'm still opted in

    The only way to really protect yourself is to not leave the house!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 7:22am

    Two things:
    In agreement with you: Many of Germany's laws suck and don't deal in reality.
    In disagreement with you: This is still a matter of scale. Human identifying me through photo much less problematic than computer identifying me through photo on Facebook.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:04am

    "Of course, I'm still wondering how this is different than existing tagged images."

    A human is going to tag you in the photos they took of you or the photos they were in with you. The automated system can tag every photo of you regardless of source, even if you're not the primary subject of the photo and are what would normally be a nameless face in the background of some stranger's photo? Seems like a pretty big difference in terms of systemic identification to me. Regardless of if the system actually does so publicly it's certainly capable of doing so and revealing that information to whoever Facebook wishes, starting with their own people, or are ordered too reveal it to...

     

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    Uriel, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:18am

    It's a very good law actually.
    Any work performed by the user for Facebook has to be agreed by the worker, so it's only natural that if some work can be done without my permission granted every time separately, noone has a right to assume I granted such permission en masse.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 8:36am

    wow, so other coutries have thier own ideas or pirvacy, and pirate mike can't stand it

    people shouldn't be able to tag you in a photo at all

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 9:12am

    are germans that ugly

    lol

     

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    Comrad Joe, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    Here is how it is different

    If your friend tags you on a photo then anyone viewing that photo can learn who you are and, likewise, anyone searching your name can potentially find out what you look like and where you were at that time. That's it. A government agency with expanded access will face similar limitations. Even with access to all profiles and photos, the agency would still have to start somewhere (a name, a location, a crime) and do real detective work.

    On the other hand, if facebook maintains a facial recognition database of all its users and their photos, it CAN build orders of magnitude more connections between names, faces, and events. Publicly it might only let users who are connected make use of that feature, but privately it can and likely will eventually connect everyone it possibly can. Whether that is done for its own financial benefit or on behalf of a government agency doesn't matter. The huge database would be instantly searchable, internally, with any photo - or portion of a photo.

    Think about that. If 10,000 people join a peaceful protest rally then their own uploaded photos, along with shared media photos, would be used automatically to identify many or all participants. With a little data mining you have a handy dandy database of everyone there, where they were and when, and who they were near or with, and what they may have said or done.

    Can you imagine ANY law enforcement agency in ANY country not taking advantage of that. Can you imagine ANY of these agencies, or individuals within them, not using this data and ability illegally or to label, monitor, and/or persecute those who hold views they don't understand or find agreeable?

     

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    BOLLOCKS, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 11:09am

    WTF is Facebook anyway?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 12:03pm

    IF you don't want to be identified, don't use a public system.

     

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    Prof K (profile), Aug 22nd, 2012 @ 9:15am

    Should Joe have to first get permission from me to identify me in a photo?

    Yes, Joe should have to first get permission from you to identify you in a photo. One of my biggest problems with Facebook is that awful tagging without permission feature. I'm glad people can hide tagged images now, but back in the old days of Facebook you could wake up and have photos tagged of you that you don't want tagged. They could be unflattering or whatever. Any photo can be made to look worse than it is, too, so please no one start with "well, if you weren't doing anything wrong..." Bottom line: I control my image and I don't wish to have it tagged without my permission.

     

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    Kaiwen, Oct 14th, 2012 @ 3:46am

    No difference

    "Is it that different if Facebook's system tagged me or if Joe tags me?"

    In my book, no. I get just as upset at friends tagging me without permission. It's a huge privacy issue, AFAIC, and until such time as FB offers the same privacy protections as the real world, I will continue to use FB only pseudonymously, via FB accounts that I have stuffed full of fake info.

    To folk who say, "But you're missing the whole point of Facebook," I say, "No, YOU'RE missing the whole point of Facebook."

     

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