Skip to main content

European regulators block Facebook’s Moments app due to privacy concerns

Facebook Smart Phone App
Bloomua/Shutterstock
Facebook launched its Moments app earlier this week, but it’s already under some scrutiny from European regulators. The standalone app is supposed to make it easier for you to get photos of yourself that are trapped on your friend’s phones.The app uses facial recognition in order to group all photos by friend on one device, so they can be easily shared to selected friends without actually posting them on Facebook.

It’s very nifty, but European regulators aren’t impressed. Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of policy in Europe, said the app won’t be available in Europe until they reach an agreement with its regulator in Ireland. This agreement boils down to offering an opt-in option to users. Allan wrote in an email, “We don’t have an opt-in mechanism so it is turned off until we develop one.”

Unfortunately, Facebook has no timetable in place for such an option, so it’s not likely to get added to the app anytime soon.

Facebook isn’t the only one dealing with this issue. Google’s new Photos app uses facial recognition for grouping photos as well, but that feature is only available in the U.S. because of the same concerns.

The U.S. hasn’t had any issues with facial recognition — also known as “faceprint” — technology, but Europeans never accepted it. Facebook was forced to remove a similar feature that identified people in photos back in 2012, after an audit by Irish regulators.

Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with six other privacy organizations attempted to work with the U.S. on a “code of conduct” around facial recognition technology, but failed. The group said jointly, “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. Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise.”

It always comes down to privacy, and it’s a touchy subject with many ethical issues involved. Europe’s strict privacy rules have led to many lawsuits against Facebook, Google, and others over EU law violations. Concerns over user privacy will undoubtedly continue to pose a challenge to tech companies in the future.

Editors' Recommendations

Robert Nazarian
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Robert Nazarian became a technology enthusiast when his parents bought him a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color. Now his biggest…
Facebook will stop using facial recognition by default on your photos
Mark Zuckerberg Tagged

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will stop using facial recognition by default on your photos and tagging suggestions.

In a blog post published Tuesday, Facebook said that new users who sign up and those users who had the tag suggestion setting turned on will get a notice about face recognition with transparency on how the platform uses the technology. Users will be able to easily opt-in or opt-out of these settings starting Tuesday.

Read more
Facebook could pay another multibillion-dollar fine over facial recognition
Mark Zuckerberg Tagged

Facebook could have to pay yet another multibillion-dollar fine after losing an appeals court decision on Thursday regarding the company’s use of facial recognition data. 

The 3-0 decision against the social media giant in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was over a 2015 class action lawsuit that claimed the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, according to court documents.

Read more
Motorola tax season sale: Get the foldable Razr for $500 and more
A person opening the Motorola Razr 40.

Motorola's Tax Season Sale will run until March 4, but now's the best time to take advantage of the price cuts because there's no telling how long stocks of the various smartphones that are available with discounts will last. We've highlighted our favorite offers below, but feel free to take a look at all the bargains. Either way, you're going to have to act fast if you don't want to miss out on these amazing offers.

What to buy in Motorola's Tax Season Sale

Read more