Facebook Moments launches in the EU & Canada without facial recognition

Facebook announced this morning that its private photo-sharing application, Facebook Moments, is now available in all countries worldwide, thanks the launch of a new, modified version in the EU and Canada. While the U.S. and other international versions of the application take advantage of facial recognition technology to suggest which friends to share with by identifying who appears in your photos, the modified being launched now does away with that feature due to various privacy laws and regulations in these markets.

This makes the app a bit more labor-intensive, as it now can’t automatically identify who is in your photos – it can only suggest that a group of photos that may contain the same person.

Explains Facebook, this modified version of the app doesn’t use facial recognition technology, but rather groups together multiple photos that “appear to include the same face.”

To make this determination, Facebook says it instead uses a form of object recognition, which is based on features like the distance between a person’s eyes and their ears.

This is a step down from facial recognition, and may not be as accurate.

It also means that the new version of Facebook Moments will have a different user interface for these users, where the app poses the question “Who’s this?”


The app then allows the user to optionally give that group of similar photos a private label – like “Mom,” or that person’s name. The labels users assign are private only to them, however. Facebook says no one else will see them.

After this initial labelling of photo groups, when Moments finds new photos that appear to have a similar-looking person in them, it will be added to that same group.

Of course, facial recognition is only one way Facebook determines which photos should be grouped together and optionally shared in Moments. The app also takes into consideration factors like the date, time and location where the photos were taken. And like the version of Moments already available in the U.S. and elsewhere, users are in control over whether or not their photos are ever sent out to others.


Facebook Moments is one of the few successful spin-offs from Facebook’s core product, following the breakout of Messenger. This is thanks in large part to some earlier heavy promotion of Moments in the Facebook News Feed, as well as integration with Facebook Notifications and Messenger, where users are alerted to the fact that their friends have shared photos with them. These messages prompt the user to install the app to view the photos.

Facebook additionally opted to replace its photo-syncing service with Moments late last year, and asked users who relied on that feature to use Moments instead.

That strategy seems to have worked. To date, Facebook tells us that more than 600 million photos have been shared in Moments.

And according to App Annie, the app is also ranked #8 in the U.S. App Store in the highly competitive Photo & Video category, as well as #39 Overall among the free applications. Facebook doesn’t say how many users have downloaded Moments, or how often they share photos. But it’s clearly a significant number, given these rankings.

However, because of the need to pull out the facial recognition feature in these select markets, users hadn’t yet been able to share their photos with friends anywhere in the world until now.

The new app is available now on both iOS and Android in both the EU and Canada.