Facebook suspends facial recognition after European crackdown

European regulators are cracking down on Facebook's facial recognition feature because of privacy concerns.

The European Union has stricter privacy regulations than the United States, where Facebook has been criticized and sued but not censured for its lax privacy policies. Facebook, in turn, on Friday said it will shut off the feature in Europe and delete the millions of European photos it's collected over the years by Oct. 15.

Billy Hawkes, Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, on Friday released a 74-page audit of the company's facial recognition feature that tags people in photos uploaded to the site. Ireland took the lead on the investigation because Facebook's European headquarters are in Dublin.

The country first began looking at Facebook last December, after Facebook announced its facial recognition rollout. The Data Protection Commission in its audit said Facebook has complied with most of the Irish office's initial requests, such as removing the "Tag Suggest" feature, first for users who joined after July 1, and then suspending the feature indefinitely.

DPC Deputy Commissioner Gary Davis in the audit report said Facebook had successfully complied in the areas of "new user education, deletion of social plug-in impression data for EU users, fully verified account deletion beyond all doubt and minimizing the potential for ad targeting based on words and terms that could be considered to be sensitive personal data."

Davis in his report also said Ireland will continue to work with the company as it moves forward with innovations.

Facebook maintains that it has worked to comply with regulators to protect the data of Europeans, but that wasn't enough for Germany. The country, which some of the strictest regulations in the EU, was preparing to fine and sanction Facebook over the facial-recognition feature, according to the New York Times. German authorities are now expected to stand down, the newspaper reports.

This isn't the end for Facebook's implementation of facial-recognition technology. The Times reports that Facebook may bring the feature back in Europe once it tightens privacy controls.

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