Facebook is using ‘dishonest and manipulative’ tactics to get users to agree to facial recognition

FILE PHOTO: A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo - RC172F69CDF0

Facebook is being criticised by privacy activists for how it’s allegedly manipulating some of its European users to consent to its use of facial recognition in photos and videos. It’s a hot-button issue, as sweeping new EU privacy legislation requires Facebook and other tech companies to get explicit permission for using the technology.

Facebook’s facial recognition technology, which it uses to recognise users in photos and identify impersonators, has not been available in the EU since 2012 after being accused of violating privacy laws for not obtaining users’ consent. The company has now started asking some users to explicitly give permission to use it, but the tech and the way Facebook is asking for permission is raising some objections.

Jennifer Cobbe, a tech law researcher at the University of Cambridge, shared screenshots of the prompts on her Twitter page. The social network isn’t presenting the choice as a simple yes-no option: Instead, users are presented with a list of the purported benefits of facial recognition tech, then asked if they want to “Accept and Continue,” or click a greyed-out box obliquely called: “Manage Data Settings.”

On May 25, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will come into effect. It’s an ambitious pan-European regulation that requires companies using people’s data to get their explicit consent to do so, and has sent companies scrambling to prepare.