Facebook explains how facial recognition technology will be affected by GDPR

New tech with a range of potential applications at events will have to play by the rules, says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Image credit: iStock
Image credit: iStock

Probably the current most dominant social media platform, Facebook finds itself at the forefront of the challenges raised by new GDPR legislation coming into force in May.

So when there was a presentation talking about its new products for event planners and MICE industry professionals, it was almost inevitable that the audience would ask questions about data.

But following that Q&A session at Business Travel Show and Travel Technology Europe at Olympia London in Kensington, the social media company was happy to talk GDPR.

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg admits the company is one of many organisations preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation which will affect all business operating in the EU.

"As part of this, people will see information on Facebook about new features we're introducing and the controls we make available, and more details on how our services work.

"While everyone in the EU will eventually hear from us about this, we're starting to test a few of the messages and features we plan to share related to GDPR," Sandberg said. 

It means that users will be able to choose whether to enable features that have previously been unavailable in the EU. So that means things like tag suggestions, reviewing photos, and "other features that rely on face recognition technology".

If the features are turned on:

  • Facebook will tell you that you’re in a photo and are part of the audience, even if you haven’t been tagged. It means you can choose whether to tag yourself, leave yourself untagged, or contact person who posted the photo if you are worried. 
  • Facebook will tell you if someone else uploads a photo of you as their profile picture – to stop people impersonating others.

"Finally, we'll make it easier for people with vision loss to get more out of Facebook. Two years ago, we launched an automatic alt-text tool, which describes photos to people with vision loss. Now, with face recognition, people who use screen readers will know who appears in photos in their news feed even if people aren’t tagged," Sandberg added.

"People can choose whether to turn on face recognition technology or leave it off."

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