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German regulators to re-open Facebook privacy investigation

German officials have re-opened their investigation into Facebook's facial-recognition technology.

Johannes Caspar, a data protection commissioner from Hamburg, said in a note posted to his website that his office has not been able to come to an agreement with Facebook over the use of facial-recognition software.

The German probe kicked off in mid-2011, but as the New York Times noted, that investigation was closed in June after Caspar's office believed Facebook was complying with German demands. Now it appears that was not the case.

European regulators got involved in the facial-recognition controversy last year after the social network rolled out the technology with little warning. The feature is intended to allow for quick photo tagging; if you upload 200 photos from one party, for example, Facebook can detect certain faces and offer up suggestions ("Is this Chloe?") to speed up the tagging process.

Given that Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) took the lead on investigating the issue. In December, Facebook agreed to be more transparent about its facial-recognition feature and how its European users' data is used.

Today, Facebook defended the feature.

"We believe that the photo tag suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data protection laws," a Facebook spokesman said.

"During our continuous dialogue with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop a best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about photo tag suggest," he added.