Facebook is leveraging its artificial intelligence (AI) software, specifically its facial recognition tech, in its new Moments apps, but the absence of an opt-in feature for the new app has caused it to be blocked in Europe, at least for the moment.
Richard Allan, Facebook's head of policy in Europe, confirmed that the Moments app is grounded until an opt-in feature is added in.
"We don't have an opt-in mechanism, so it is turned off until we develop one," said Allan.
Will Ruben, a Facebook product manager, introduced the Moments app on June 15.
"With a phone at everyone's fingertips, the moments in our lives are captured by a new kind of photographer: our friends," said Ruben. It's hard to get the photos your friends have taken of you, and everyone always insists on taking that same group shot with multiple phones to ensure they get a copy."
Moments seeks to unify collections of photos between friends. An individual, part of a group using Moments, can commission the app to scan friends' mobile devices for pictures that include that person.
"Moments uses facial recognition technology to group your photos based on the friends who are in them," said Ruben. "This is the same technology that powers tag suggestions on Facebook. You can control tag suggestions in your Settings."
While Moments users can control tag suggestions, it's that missing opt-in feature that is keeping it out of the European Union right now.
This isn't the first time Facebook's facial recognition tech has run into trouble. Back in 2010, Europe blocked facial recognition tech Facebook had rolled out to help people tag individuals in photos.
The problem isn't one that is unique to Facebook. Facial recognition was just hit with a serious blow when members of nine privacy advocacy groups walked out of discussions with trade groups in drafting policies for using the tech commercially.
Consumers should have the ability to go out in public without fearing companies—many of which they have never heard of—tracking their every move and identifying them by name by using facial recognition software, according to the joint statement from the groups that gave up on the talks.
"Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise," the statement read. "The position that companies never need to ask permission to use biometric identification is at odds with consumer expectations, current industry practices, as well as existing state law."
The group of privacy advocates was made up of members of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, Center for Democracy & Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, Common Sense Media, Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action and Consumer Watchdog.