Facebook’s Moments app, which launched earlier this week in the United States, has not been made available in Europe, and no timeline for its launch has been provided after disputes over the facial recognition technology it uses.
The Moments App helps sharing photos quickly between friends privately, without them being available on the news feed. The app matches the photos based on the locations they were made and uses facial recognition to the same with regards to the friends who are in them. The only thing required is syncing with the app, which will then automatically share photos with the people you’ve specified.
However, European legislation obliges companies to have explicit user permission before using technology which includes facial recognition on a commercial basis. Facebook must reportedly reach an agreement with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Ireland’s main regulator in terms of data privacy and protection, on how to implement the app within the EU.
“Regulators have told us we have to offer an opt-in choice to people to do this. We don’t have an opt-in mechanism so it is turned off until we develop one” said Facebook’s European head of policy Richard Allan in an e-mail towards the Wall Street Journal.
He also reportedly added that there is no schedule for developing such a mechanism, while a Facebook spokeswoman could not say when the app would be made available for Europe.
This week was a hard one for the social media giant in managing its European affairs, as the Belgian data protection regulator had earlier opened a legal case against Facebook’s tracking of user activities done through the like and share button outside of its site. Another decision, this time for the entirety of the EU, saw an European law draft being approved by all 28 states which would give more power to national Internet regulators over tech companies.
Facial recognition technology works by scanning photos for user faces and matching them automatically against a known database of known facial features to find a close or exact match. The technology has been for some time by governmental agencies, but ethics regarding its commercial use have been disputed especially in Europe, where legislation focuses on gaining user approval.
This is not the first time Facebook is required to pull or limit such a feature. Another default feature which the company started in late 2010 used facial recognition to identify people in photos by default, with it being pulled in 2012 from the EU after another clash with the same Irish regulator.
Image Source: The Verge