Facebook launched its new photo-sharing app Moments this week, but European users will not get to enjoy it.
Moments will not launch in Europe due to fears that regulators will not approve its use of facial recognition technology. The app uses the technology to identify old photos of friends from your photo collection, writes James Vincent for The Verge.
Regulators put the brakes on Facebook’s plans, again
“Regulators have told us we have to offer an opt-in choice to people to do this,” said Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of policy in Europe. “We don’t have an opt-in mechanism so it is turned off until we develop one.” He later specified that the company does not have any timeline to do so at this moment.
Facial recognition technology has run into problems with European regulators on multiple occasions. Facebook was forced to end the use of the technology on its main site for European users in 2012 following an audit by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
Back then Facebook claimed that it would attempt to relaunch the feature “once we have agreed an approach on the best way to notify and educate users.” If the launch of Moments is anything to go by, those efforts have not been sufficient.
Growing concern over the technology in the U.S.
Google has also had plans for the use of facial recognition technology scuppered by regulators, this time in the United States. Officials objected to the Google Photos app, which uses the technology to organize photos by who appears in them.
Despite this setback for Google, the U.S. so far appears to be quite unconcerned by the use of the technology. However this may be about to change, given advances that have made facial recognition more accurate.
Digital rights nonprofit organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with 8 other organizations concerned with online privacy, withdrew from discussions with U.S. government agencies regarding the use of the technology.
At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement — and identifying them by name — using facial recognition technology,” read a joint statement.
Of particular concern is the “commercial use of face recognition because of the possibility that the data collected will be shared with law enforcement and the federal government.”
European concerns over Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology may foreshadow a public backlash in the United States.