Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The World Wide Web isn't

Remember how the World Wide Web was supposed to unify us, and was supposed to cross borders, and allow Twitter users in San Francisco to liberate the peoples of Egypt?

It turns out that connectedness is about as effective as a smuggling ship - technically able to illegally cross over borders, but fraught with peril.

Google Noticias is still dead. I previously noted how Google chose to shut down the Spanish version of Google news rather than conform to specific laws in Spain.

But Google isn't the only Silicon Valley company whose quest for world domination has been blocked.

A week ago, a Facebook product manager trumpeted an announcement of a new product. The trumpeting started as follows:

With a phone at everyone’s fingertips, the moments in our lives are captured by a new kind of photographer: our friends. 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. Even if you do end up getting some of your friends’ photos, it’s difficult to keep them all organized in one place on your phone.

To help make this easier, today we’re announcing a new standalone app called Moments.

When you go to a wedding, for example, there are many people taking great photos throughout the day. You all want a quick way to share your photos with the friends who are in them, and get photos that you’re in back. The same is true for smaller events too, like a kayak trip or a night out.

Syncing photos with the Moments app is a private way to give photos to friends and get the photos you didn’t take. Moments groups the photos on your phone based on when they were taken...

Great! Then, product manager Will Ruben continues:

...and, using facial recognition technology, which friends are in them.

Excuse me for a moment while I do the disclosure:


It turns out that the facial recognition feature in Moments - which, in effect, drives the whole danged product - makes it a problem in some parts of the world.

So Europeans aren't going to get it:

It's unclear whether Facebook – which has its European headquarters in Ireland – is in private talks about the tech with the Irish Data Protection Commission.

The Reg sought comment from the watchdog....

An Irish [Data Proection Commission] spokesman has since responded to El Reg's questions. We were told on Wednesday morning:

"In relation to the app called Moments, as it is a US product only, we have not been consulted by Facebook Ireland on it, we would only expect to be consulted if it was being introduced in Europe.

"This office has not been consulted on any planned roll out of facial recognition products in Europe, we would expect to be consulted if such products are being considered for Europe."

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