Facebook hit with class action suit over facial recognition tool

Facebook contends it has been very open about the tool since its inception and allows users to turn it off and prevent themselves from being suggested in photo tags. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2018
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Facebook hit with class action suit over facial recognition tool

SAN FRANCISCO: A US federal judge in California ruled Monday that Facebook will have to face a class action suit over allegations it violated users’ privacy by using a facial recognition tool on their photos without their explicit consent.
The ruling comes as the social network is snared in a scandal over the mishandling of 87 million users’ data ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.
The facial recognition tool, launched in 2010, suggests names for people it identifies in photos uploaded by users — a function which the plaintiffs claim runs afoul of Illinois state law on protecting biometric privacy.
Judge James Donato ruled the claims by Illinois residents Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen, and Carlo Licata were “sufficiently cohesive to allow for a fair and efficient resolution on a class basis.
“Consequently, the case will proceed with a class consisting of Facebook users located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011,” he said, according to the ruling seen by AFP.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was reviewing the decision, adding: “We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Facebook also contends it has been very open about the tool since its inception and allows users to turn it off and prevent themselves from being suggested in photo tags.
The technology was suspended for users in Europe in 2012 over privacy fears.
Also on Monday, Facebook confirmed that it collected information from people beyond their social network use.
“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account,” product management director David Baser said in a post on the social network’s blog.
Baser said “many” websites and apps use Facebook services to target content and ads, including via the social network’s Like and Share buttons, when people use their Facebook account to log into another website or app and Facebook ads and measurement tools.
But he stressed the practice was widespread, with companies such as Google and Twitter also doing the same.


Danish inventor gets life term for journalist’s murder

Updated 25 April 2018
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Danish inventor gets life term for journalist’s murder

COPENHAGEN: A Copenhagen court on Wednesday found Danish inventor Peter Madsen guilty of the premeditated murder and sexual assault of Swedish journalist Kim Wall on his homemade submarine last year, handing him a life sentence.
Madsen, 47, had admitted chopping up the 30-year-old’s body and throwing her remains overboard in waters off Copenhagen on the night of August 10, 2017, but claimed her death was accidental.
A life sentence in Denmark averages around 16 years.
Madsen, wearing a black T-shirt and blazer, stood in the courtroom to hear the verdict. As it was read out by the judge, he sat down next to his lawyer, visibly affected and dejected.
Madsen’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.
Wall, a freelance reporter, had set off with Madsen on his vessel on the evening of August 10 to interview him for a story she planned to write.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Madsen killed Wall as part of a dark sexual fantasy, stressing that he enjoyed watching videos of women being beheaded and tortured.
But Madsen, who changed his version of events several times, told the court she died when the air pressure suddenly dropped and toxic fumes filled his vessel as he was up on deck.
Despite the testimony of many experts, the lack of tangible evidence in the case and the decomposed state of Wall’s remains made it impossible to determine her exact cause of death.
An autopsy report said she probably died as a result of suffocation or having her throat slit.
But the professional judge and two lay judges found the incriminating circumstances were enough to find Madsen guilty, including the gruesome videos he watched, and the fact that he brought a saw, plastic strips and a sharpened screwdriver on board.
Psychiatric experts who evaluated Madsen — who described himself to friends as “a psychopath, but a loving one” — found him to be “a pathological liar” who poses “a danger to others” and who was likely to be a repeat offender.
Madsen is the 15th person in 10 years to receive a life sentence in the Nordic nation, which has a reputation as tranquil and safe.