Facebook’s Messenger app has received a new dose of artificial intelligence, and will now start recognising the faces of users’ friends in photographs uploaded to the service.
But the new feature, which is initially rolling out in Australia, may not be coming to Europe any time soon, given the social network’s long-running squabble with European data protection regulators over whether or not facial recognition infringes on the right to privacy.
For users who have the feature, dubbed “photo magic”, enabled, Messenger will now peek into their camera rolls and analyse recent photos to see if there are any faces it recognises. If there are, it will prompt them to share it with a notification.
A Facebook spokesman said that the “optional new feature” is designed “to make sharing photos in messenger even easier and more fun”.
“Sending photos of friends, and particularly groups of friends, is still too complicated. With Photo Magic, Messenger recognises your friends in the photos you take and enables you to share your pictures with the friends in them in just two taps.”
Users also have the ability to opt out of being automatically recognised in photos uploaded by their friends by changing a setting in the “timeline and tagging” section of their Facebook options.
But the feature could take a while to appear in European countries. The company’s first attempt to introduce facial recognition in 2011 was slammed by the Irish data protection authority, which forced the withdrawal of the feature a few months later.
It took until 2014 for “Tag Suggest”, as the initial facial recognition feature is known, to return to European shores, and even then it was only in a limited fashion: Europeans can use the feature to tag US users who happen to have it turned on, but can’t set Facebook to automatically recognise other Europeans.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th November 2015 13.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010