Facebook Back at War With Germany Over Face-Scan Database

By Gary Cutlack on at

Facebook's in trouble with the Germans again, with local data protection bodies angry that the social site's stealth biometric database compiled from photo scans has not been destroyed.

Although Facebook has stopped collecting data from its facial recognition tools in the country, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information is concerned about the database already built. Before the case came to light, Facebook was scanning and identifying photo uploads without first asking for specific permission, which triggered the initial investigation late last year.

The Hamburg office was hoping to negotiate some sort of truce with Facebook and suspended its inquiry, but that grace period is now over. It wants the social network to either retroactively ask for permission from everyone who had their faces scanned, or to destroy the data it collected. Or else.

Johannes Caspar, the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said [PDF]: "The existing database is to be deleted unless Facebook ensures that all concerned users explicitly consent to the continued storage and use of their collected facial data. It is regrettable that Facebook has not used the chance for a consensual solution but is obviously playing for time."

In a rather ballsy final summary, Caspar added: "They are welcome to inform us about an acceptable method obtaining consent by the concerned users or to confirm the deletion of the collected facial data at any time." [ZDNet]