A year ago, Facebook removed facial recognition from its photo services in Europe. The decision was made after a threat from the German government, where facial recognition is mostly illegal. As part of the agreement, all of the European facial templates were deleted, in return for the German commissioner dropping proceedings.
This is why commissioner Johannes Caspar was shocked to see facial recognition back in the data usage policy published by Facebook this week. He said in an email,
It would be illegal to re-engage facial recognition within Germany, without making it an opt-in setting. The proposed usage policy states,
We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged. You can control whether we suggest that another user tag you in a photo using the 'Timeline and Tagging' settings.
While this does not suggest that the setting will be turned off for European users, it also does not suggest it will not. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner, however, says that their office has had contact with Facebook and that they still do not intend to offer the service in Europe.
So, has Facebook really deleted the templates? Will the service return to Europe? Only time can tell.