Facing the threat of a class action lawsuit in the United States over its use of facial recognition without obtaining consent from users, Facebook has started obtaining explicit consent from users in Europe and in Canada to use facial recognition in photos and videos.
On Monday, a San Francisco District Judge ruled that a class action lawsuit was the best way for Facebook users in Illinois to claim damages from Facebook for using facial recognition to identify them in photos and videos without obtaining prior consent. The Judge noted that a class action lawsuit could result in Facebook paying damages amounting to billions of dollars.
Considering that the class action lawsuits could lead to a surge in such lawsuits across the globe, Facebook took preventive measures and announced recently that it would obtain explicit consent from users in Europe and Canada on the use of facial recognition.
"Everyone - no matter where they live - will be asked to review important information about how Facebook uses data and make choices about their privacy on Facebook. We’ll begin by rolling these choices out in Europe this week," it said.
"We not only want to comply with the law [GDPR], but also go beyond our obligations to build new and improved privacy experiences for everyone on Facebook. We’ve also sought input from people outside Facebook with different perspectives on privacy, including people who use our services, regulators and government officials, privacy experts, and designers," it added.
"Facial recognition helps protect people's privacy"
On the question of its use of facial recognition technology, Facebook said that the technology helps improve people's privacy as it can detect whenever a person's image is used by unknown persons in posts on Facebook.
"We’ve offered products using face recognition in most of the world for more than six years. As part of this update, we’re now giving people in the EU and Canada the choice to turn on face recognition. Using face recognition is entirely optional for anyone on Facebook.
"While the substance of our data policy is the same globally, people in the EU will see specific details relevant only to people who live there, like how to contact our Data Protection Officer under GDPR.
"People in the EU will start seeing these requests this week to ensure they have made their choices ahead of GDPR coming into effect on May 25. As part of our phased approach, people in the rest of the world will be asked to make their choices on a slightly later schedule, and we’ll present the information in the ways that make the most sense for other regions," it added.