Facebook has launched its photo-sharing app in the EU and Canada after adapting its controversial facial-recognition software to work around each region’s privacy laws.
The program – Moments – was released in some countries in 2015, but withheld elsewhere because of local data privacy rules.
The company has created a different version of the software to get around these restrictions.
The Moment App works by grouping together photos featuring the same friend or friends, and then makes it easy to share the pictures with them if they have installed the same app.
In the original version, the pictures are automatically tagged with people’s names, because Facebook is able to match them to other photos in its wider database.
But data protection watchdogs in the EU and Canada had expressed concern their citizens would have no way to opt out of the process.
To address this, the adapted app now links together photos of similar-looking faces but requires the user to identify who they are.
The technique – which Facebook refers to as “facial clustering” – still relies on some processing being done beyond the user’s handset, but Facebook said it had taken great lengths to comply with the EU and Canada’s privacy rules.
Moments is not the only app to use facial recognition to sort images. Google Photos is the most popular alternative to do so.
But the search giant has yet to extend the facility to Europe, to avoid falling foul of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
Facebook has not disclosed how many people have signed up to Moments since its release on the US’s iOS and Android stores 11 months ago.
However, the company has said more than 600 million pictures have been shared via the app so far.