Facebook Moments: Facial recognition app launched that isn’t allowed to recognise people’s faces

Facial recognition technology is frowned upon in the EU because of privacy rules, so Facebook has created another version of the app with its central feature missing

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 11 May 2016 11:08 BST
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People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014
People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014

Facebook has launched its facial-recognition photos app in Europe and Canada – without facial recognition.

The company first launched its “Moments” app in the US last year. It is meant as an easy way of sharing photos, using recognition technology to pick out photos that include the same people and grouping them together.

But since people were automatically opted into that feature, and so had their faces and identities analysed by people who were using the app, privacy watchdogs in the EU and Canada stopped it coming from the UK.

Now Facebook has created a new version of the app that just links together photos of people who look similar. It still requires the person using Moments to say who each person is, and those labels will be kept private to each user.

That technique is known as “facial clustering”. It still sends pictures of people out to Facebook’s servers, but that is all done in line with privacy rules in the EU and Canada – the pictures aren’t stored and the actual comparison is done on the phone.

But once pictures are shared with someone, they are sent to Facebook’s servers and stored there.

Moments works like Google Photos, which has already launched around the world but without its facial recognition features in many places. Both are intended as a way of grouping up photos and then sharing them with the people involved – a process that is largely helped by recognising the people in photos.

And like Google Photos, it is intended to let people share in private – taking on messaging apps like WhatsApp more than it is public Facebook posts.

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