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Facebook says it does not always roll out new features globally. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)
Facebook says it does not always roll out new features globally. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)

Facebook facial-recognition feature won't be available to Canadians Add to ...

Facebook's controversial facial-recognition technology for photographs will not be available to Canadian users, the social-networking site says.

A spokesperson for Facebook did not say why Canadians would not get access to the feature but wrote in an e-mail: "Not all of our launches roll out globally and each of our different products and features have varying launch schedules, and we don't have plans to roll this feature out in Canada at this time."

The feature, referred to by Facebook as a "tag suggestion," has raised concerns about privacy since it was launched in the United States in December. It recognizes faces in new photos and automatically suggests names of friends in photos as they are uploaded. Facebook users who do not want their photos tagged are not asked their permission but must opt out of using the feature.

A coalition of digital rights groups in the U.S. has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that users are not fully informed of the biometric data that is "secretly" being collected about them. A group of privacy watchdogs from European Union countries is also investigating possible privacy violations.

Facebook locked horns with Canada's privacy commission in 2009 after members of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa complained that the privacy information Facebook provides to users was confusing or incomplete. After an investigation by the privacy commission, Facebook agreed to change its privacy settings worldwide.

The Facebook spokesperson said Tuesday that Canadian users will be identified by the Internet protocol address assigned to their computer. Users registered in Canada will not receive photo tag suggestions of their friends, nor will they be suggested for tagging by their friends in other countries where the tool is available.

CIPPIC director David Fewer said it was "disappointing" that Canadians who want to use the tag suggestion tool will not have the option.

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