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Germany Says Facebook's Facial Recognition Is Illegal 278

fysdt writes "Although we think it's generally a pretty nifty feature, valid concerns over the misuse of Facebook's auto-recognition tagging have lead Germany to ban it entirely. That's right — Facebook in its current state is now illegal. The German government, which possesses perhaps the world's most adamant privacy laws as a result of postwar abuse, considers Facebook's facial recognition a violation of 'the right to anonymity.'"
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Germany Says Facebook's Facial Recognition Is Illegal

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  • by kevinmenzel ( 1403457 ) <`kevinmenzel' `at' `'> on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:24PM (#36981284)

    Tags not linked to an account cannot be searched. They don't link to anything. You can't even see all the photos in an album with the same unlinked tag. It hardly identifies you, because as far as I can tell, they don't even try to assume unlinked tags are related to each other in any way, even if the text is the same. I've seen worse affronts to privacy in my life.

  • Re:And yet (Score:5, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:05AM (#36981572)

    Personally I'd like to know what the "post war privacy abuses" that TFA is speaking of that turned Germany so pro privacy.

    How quickly we forget that before 1990 what we now know as "Germany" included *EAST* Germany. []

    The East German Stasi had a network where neighbours ratted each other out, had huge databases listing all kinds of data of their citizens... On and on. As a consequence, much of Germany now has a huge pro-privacy culture, and a sense that citizens must 'never again' be tracked.

  • Re:GO GERMANS (Score:4, Informative)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) * on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:26AM (#36981718)

    It should be noted that German investigators were also the ones who caused Google to admit their four years of Street View data-snooping.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:42AM (#36981824)

    The problem isn't so much the existence of the photo, more that it has become trivial to link a person's name to it.

    Trying to find someone specific using the mentioned services is like searching for the needle in the haystack. It becomes a completely different matter if it's done for you by some search engine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:39AM (#36982114)

    Race card? I was always under the impression that being Jewish was a religion, not a "race".

    Then you were mistaken. It's both.

  • Not "banned". (Score:5, Informative)

    by Udo Schmitz ( 738216 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @02:43AM (#36982502) Journal

    From the original source (

    "Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data protection official, on Tuesday said the feature was a serious violation of people’s rights to determine what is done with their personal data. He added that German authorities would take quick legal action if Facebook did not comply with his demands.

    This could include fines of up to €300,000 ($426,000), Caspar said.

    “Should Facebook maintain the function, it must ensure that only data from persons who have declared consent to the storage of their biometric facial profiles be stored in the database,” he said."

    At the moment this is just an opinion of the appointed guy for data protection of the city state of Hamburg. Not even a minister/secretary. Although he certainly has a point and Facebook could be fined, Germany is not Iran. We don't just "ban" stuff.

  • Re:GO GERMANS (Score:5, Informative)

    by drolli ( 522659 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @03:38AM (#36982754) Journal

    It should be noted how that works. In Germany every institution which processes personal data has to have a "Datenschutzbeauftragter" (Personal privacy protection responsible), ans this since the early 90s (as far as i remember). And there are one of these for each of the Countries in Germany.

    As fas as i understand the west German strong movement and awareness for the issue arose in 1987 census, which caused a lot of work for the courts and polarized the population against government data collection. Before that the "Rasterfahndung" (a sieving of registration office and other data to find terrorism suspects) in the 1970s deepened the split between the different political views in Germany (IMHO prolonging the support for the terroristic "red army fraction" in the population). About former East Germany it can only be said that people who were spied upon all the time and having disadvantaged in life if saying privately the wrong thing may not feel very well about being tracked.

    Last but not least one of the first large-scale usage of automated population databases (on Hollerith puchcards) in Germany was the organization of the Holocaust.

    All these are good reasons that Germany should be extra-careful about data collections. And germans should be, too, but every time i stand in the shop at the cashier is am asked if i use a customer point card (which then would probably allow the company behind to correlate my buying of underwear with the books i buy).

    I for my part can only say that i am lucky that i forbid even friends to put photos of me to an uncontrolled space in the Internet. There is only a

  • Re:GO GERMANS (Score:4, Informative)

    by kuiperbelt ( 2427618 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @04:30AM (#36982948)

    Countries in Germany, eh? Which ones would those be exactly?

    Parent almost certainly means the states of the federal republic (Länder). The word "Land" in German can translate as "country" or "state".

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!