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Facebook agrees to stop collecting photographs of European people


A reveller fancy dressed as a Facebook profile joins the Banda de Ipanama carnival street band as they parade along Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 5, 2011.


Antonio Scorza

Facebook has been saving millions of photographs of European people. Regulators think that's creepy. But Facebook announced today that it will finally delete its face-recognition database, which had stored the photographs. Facebook will also discontinue its automated photo-tagging feature in Europe, the New York Times reported

Facebook has been the subject of a months-long investigation in the European Union, TechCrunch reported. The investigation was spurred by a 24-year-old law student from Austria named Max Schrems, Forbes reported. While working on his thesis, Schrems found that Facebook had been storing tons of data on users. He created an activist group to file complaints against the social media giant, and those complaints then caught the attention of European privacy regulators. 

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Earlier this year, a group of regulators ruled that the photo-tagging feature violates European Union law, Bloomberg News reported. Facebook had been fighting European opposition to photo tagging for more than a year before finally bowing to pressure.

Ireland’s privacy regulator Billy Hawkes, who had also been investigating the photo-tagging feature, said he was "encouraged" by Facebook's announcement today, BBC News reported

Facebook has a huge database of facial files for its photo-tagging feature, but how many people that database contains has never been made public. It's also not yet clear how Facebook will discern between its European and non-European users, the Times reported.