UPDATE 1-Connecticut wants Facebook meeting over privacy

Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:43pm EDT

(Adds comments from Facebook)

* Connecticut AG concerned over Facebook technology

* Says fairly simple changes could address concerns

* Facebook says eager to provide clarifications

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO, June 16 (Reuters) - Connecticut's Attorney General is concerned over Facebook's use of facial recognition technology to identify users and has requested a meeting with Facebook officials to discuss ways to alleviate those concerns.

Attorney General George Jepsen said in a letter to Facebook earlier this week that the world's No. 1 Internet social network appeared to have overlooked consumer privacy by analyzing the faces in photographs posted on the website and cataloging the recognition.

"Consumers must be made aware that the digital images of their faces are being coupled by Facebook technology to the personal information in their Facebook profiles," Jepsen wrote in the letter released by his office on Thursday.

"The potential uses of facial recognition on this scale remain unclear but concerning," the letter said.

The letter follows Facebook's broad deployment of its "Tag Suggestions" technology, which scans users' uploaded photos, comparing faces in the photos with previously uploaded photos to see if it can match people to the photos.

If a match is found, Facebook alerts the person uploading the photos and invites them to "tag," or identify, the person in the photo.

"We have been in contact with Attorney General Jepsen's office and are eager to provide clarification about tag suggestions and answer any questions he may have," a spokesman for Facebook told Reuters.

INVESTIGATION REQUESTED

Facebook, which announced in December that it planned to introduce the service in the United States, said last week that the feature was available in "most countries."

The lack of notification about the wider roll-out of the technology and Facebook's automatically enabling the technology in users' settings have raised concerns among some privacy advocates who say it should be up to users to allow it.

Last week, a group of privacy advocate organizations filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation.

Facebook, which has more than 500 million users, has said that automated photo-tagging suggestions are only made when new photos are added, that only friends are suggested and that users can disable the feature in their privacy settings.

Jepsen said in his letter that "fairly simple changes" could be enough to address privacy concerns, such as requiring users to "opt in" for facial recognition and improved notification when users' photos are analyzed and identified. (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)