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FTC to scrutinize new Facebook facial recognition feature

Men are silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Nokia Lumia 820 and Samsung Galaxy S4 in this photo ill
Men are silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Nokia Lumia 820 and Samsung Galaxy S4 in this photo ill

By Aurindom Mukherjee and Gerry Shih

(Reuters) - U.S. officials will examine changes to Facebook Inc's privacy policy to determine whether they violate a 2011 agreement with federal regulators, a Federal Trade Commission spokesman confirmed Wednesday after certain changes drew fire from privacy advocates.

Much of the criticism has focused on a proposed "Tag Suggest" feature that would use facial recognition technology to match faces in photos with public profile features, part of a broad set of privacy changes the social networking giant announced on August 29.

FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said regulators would study the changes as part of the government's oversight of Facebook's privacy practices, which began in 2011 after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for privacy missteps and pledged to obtain users' permission before sharing their personal data.

"As in all cases, we're monitoring compliance with the order and part of that involves interacting with Facebook," Kaplan said Wednesday.

He added that the commission had no reason to believe that the company had violated its 2011 agreement.

Facebook posted an update to its data use policies on the company website on August 29 to explain how users' personal information is used by advertisers and third-party applications. (http://r.reuters.com/myq92v)

The new policy proposal came days after the company finalized a $20 million class-action settlement related to how Facebook displayed its users' "likes" and pictures in its ads products.

Facebook said in a statement on Wednesday that it was in full compliance with the FTC and that its new policy did not grant the company expanded privileges in how it used personal data.

(Reporting by Aurindom Mukherjee and Gerry Shih in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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