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July 17, 2012 2:00 pm

Facebook Acquisition of Israeli Startup Sparks Senate Hearing

avatar by Ezriel Gelbfish

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook’s buyout of Israeli facial recognition company Face.com has caught the attention of the federal government, which has called the social media giant to a hearing this week on Capitol Hill, citing privacy and civil liberties concerns.

For more than a year, Facebook has been using software from the Tel Aviv-based Face.com to assist users in tagging photos, with the controversial program contributing to a database of faces comprised of over 900 million users of the popular networking site. Since Facebook’s June acquisition of Face.com for an estimated 60 million dollars, online privacy concerns have only increased among activists, according to Mashable.com.

During tomorrow’s hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law will question Facebook’s Manager of Public and Private Policy, Rob Sherman, about the details of the company’s use of the recognition software.

The concerns follow a long line of criticisms of Facebook in recent years, ranging from online privacy accusations to issues about questionable advertising policies and changes in Facebook’s State of Rights and Responsibilites. Aside from being sued several times, Facebook has been audited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who in a settlement this past November, subjected Facebook to regular privacy audits for twenty years.

Aside from Facebook, tomorrow’s hearing will address the role of facial recognition in law enforcement, which uses the software to identify criminals from surveillance cameras and other pictorial records. FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jerome Pender and President of the National Sheriff’s Association Larry Amerson will both be on hand tomorrow to discuss the federal government’s use of facial recognition. According The Hill, a staff attorney for the cyber-rights activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is expected to add expert testimony to the hearing as well.

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