German data protection officials accused the social network of "illegally compiling a vast photo database of users without their consent," further demanding that it ” destroys its archive, the New York Times reported.
Facebook, however, said that it uses face recognition software to match users’ photos to others as part of its friends' suggestion mechanism, and that users can disable the tagging option.
"The social networking company’s decision to use analytic software to compile photographic archives of human faces, based on photos uploaded by Facebook’s users, has been controversial in Europe, where data protection laws require users to give their explicit consent to the practice," the NYT said.
"Instead of using such an opt-in system, Facebook assumes users will want to use facial recognition and requires them to opt out instead."
Germany started investigating Facebook over alleged privacy infringements in June 2011. The probe was suspended in June of this year, after authorities failed to convince Facebook to change its practices.
The German data protection commission has recently decided to reopen the investigation, demanding that at the very least Facebook "Destroy its photographic database of faces collected in Germany and revise its Web site to obtain the explicit consent of users before it creates a digital file based on the biometric data of their faces."
Facebook said it is under no obligation to do so, citing that the method legal in Ireland, where Facebook’s European headquarters are based.
"We believe that the Photo Tag Suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data protection laws," Facebook said in a statement.
"During our continuous dialogue with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop a best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about Photo Tag Suggest."
While Facebook is not backing down, it has agreed to make one small concession by suspending the tagging feature for Europeans who joined Facebook on or after July 1.