Facebook's hot new app won't launch in Europe because of regulatory fears

Mark zuckerberg in sunglassesScott Olson/Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Europeans shouldn’t expect to get their hands on Facebook’s new “Moments” app any time in the immediate future: The Register is reporting that the social networking giant is holding off on launching it on the continent because it could fall foul of regulators.

Launched earlier in June, Moments automatically scans a user’s camera roll on their smartphone for photos of their friends using Facebook’s sophisticated facial recognition software. It then lets you send over the photos to the friends identified in them.

It’s a clever idea, making it much easier to share big batches of photos — and gives Facebook more valuable data about its users in the process. But right now, the app isn’t available in Europe, and it sounds like it won’t be any time soon.

It’s all down to Facebook’s facial recognition technology. While the social network has become extremely good at recognising faces over the last several years, Europeans might not realise it. The Californian company removed the functionality in Europe following pressure from regulators. Europe tends to take a much harder line on data protection and privacy issues than the US, and the Irish Data Protection Authority took issue with how the software uses users’ data.

So while Americans will see intelligent suggestions for people to tag in photos they upload on the social network, Europeans will only get automatic suggestions of people they have recently interacted with, which don’t take into account any facial data. And without this facial recognition tech, Moments has no real reason to exist.

Sure enough, Moments is not currently available in European countries, and The Register says it “understands” there is “no immediate strategy to roll out the app within the 28-member state bloc.”

Here’s the message Europeans see when they try to install Moments on an Android smartphone:

Business Insider has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this story when it responds.

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