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    Bloomberg: Franken Questions Facebook on Facial Recognition Feature

    Bloomberg News reports on a Wednesday hearing on facial recognition at the U.S. Senate chaired by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) (who wrote an op-ed about privacy and civil liberties several months ago). Franken, chairman of the subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee, convened the hearing “to examine what facial recognition technology means for privacy and civil liberties.”

    Facebook Inc. should do more to inform users about its use of facial recognition technology and what it’s doing with its growing database of photos, U.S. Senator Al Franken said today.

    Facebook, owner of the world’s largest social network with more than 900 million users, has facial-recognition software that suggest the names of friends that people can label, or “tag,” in photographs. It introduced the feature, called Tag Suggestions, in December 2010.

    “Facebook may have created the world’s largest privately held database of face prints without the explicit knowledge of its users,” Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing. […]

    Facebook has built privacy controls into Tag Suggestions, Rob Sherman, manager of privacy and public policy for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said at the hearing. The technology doesn’t let users identify people who are random strangers, and users can opt out of the photo-tagging feature, Sherman said. […]

    Franken also expressed concern about a Federal Bureau of Investigation facial-recognition pilot program that lets law enforcement officers take a photo of a person and compare it to a database of criminal suspects. The effort was started in Maryland, Michigan and Hawaii and will soon expand to three more states, Franken said.

    “The FBI pilot could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights,” Franken said, saying any law-enforcement gains from the program could come at a high cost to civil liberties.

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