This question came to my mind after sorting out some pictures and also having my picasa program at the same time open.

So is it legal to make a face recognition database of public pictures from people like e.g. celebrities, politicians or any other people who are or want to be famous or recognized?

BTW this is not a copyright question. Imagine I can get enough photos for face recognition somehow.

  • 1
    This is really a question for a lawyer with knowledge of your legal jurisdiction.
    – philshem
    Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 15:31
  • 1
    Which country are you in? Commented May 26, 2014 at 14:57
  • My country is Germany. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 14:04
  • 1
    Celebrity web sites already present images of celebrities as a specific category of interest. You often see paparazzi photos, red carpet events, etc. I know Germany has greater privacy laws than the United States. You should ask a German lawyer or businesses that deal with celebrity images. I don't think anyone from the United States is really qualified to answer.
    – Sun
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 21:55
  • 2
    EU data laws probably do cover this but I'm not sure. As everybody else says, you'll need to consult with a lawyer to find out. It may also run foul of the EU's right to be forgotten law.
    – Phil
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


Why wouldn't it be?
You can take pictures of people in public and post them online legally in the U.S..

A better question around this topic is:
"What are you planning to do with an open face recognition database of public people/celebrities?"

And an even better question for this topic:
"Are your plans involving creating an open face recognition database of public people/celebrities ethical and moral?"


Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and don't live in Germany.

I know of 2 possible legal issues with this (there might be more):

Bildrechte (or photograph rights). This says something along the lines that you're not allowed to publish images of someone's face when this might damage them in some way (privacy, financially, reputation, etc.).

The second is that images of someone face can be traced to that person, which makes them count as personal data under EU law. This means you're not allowed to process them (let alone publish) without explicit permission. This runs against the rights of free speech and journalism, so (I assume) there's a lot of compromises and gray areas here. More on personal data can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/

As far as I know these laws apply equally to famous and non-famous people.

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