Prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness”, is a neurological disorder preventing the ability to recognise people’s faces. Now, Facebook’s Facial Recognition algorithm will suffer the same fate, as the company pulls the plug on their decade long creation.
Since 2010, Facebook has used facial recognition software to detect the identities of their users in uploaded photos. This technology has lead to a growing concern for user privacy, as well as provoked speculation into the ethics and intentions of Big Tech.
Now, in 2021, Facebook has announced that they will delete their entire facial recognition database, in an Facial Recognition Usage Update published in their blog. This include the facial recognition data from almost a billion users.
Facebook stated this decision was “part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition” in their products. Facebook, also vowed to delete their facial recognition template, previously used to identify users.
As the debate over facial recognition technology implemented within society remains unresolved, this move shows Big Tech’s desperation to gain back user’s trust. Until official rules are agreed upon and enforced, it may be better for such technology to not yet exist—or become normalized and [potentially accessible]—within American society.
Could this decision be in preparation of Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse? Were the facial recognition templates copied or recreated in some way before deletion?
This change will also remove Automatic Alt Text (AAT), which automatically generates descriptions of the images for blind and visually-impaired users. Facebook stated, “After this change, AAT descriptions will no longer include the names of people recognized in photos but will function normally otherwise.”
“We’re shutting down the Face Recognition system on Facebook. People who’ve opted in will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos and we will delete more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates.”
“We need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.”
The company continued, “For many years, Facebook has also given people the option to be automatically notified when they appear in photos or videos posted by others, and provided recommendations for who to tag in photos. These features are also powered by the Face Recognition system which we are shutting down. “
In early 2021, Facebook was ordered to pay $650 million in a Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) settlement for secretly using the company’s facial recognition technology to illegally identify Illinois residents’ photos, without consent.
The company stated “Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool”, “This includes services that help people gain access to a locked account, verify their identity in financial products or unlock a personal device.”
To many, modern facial recognition is essential to daily life. Facial recognition technology allows for rapid unlocking of personal devices, as well as the authorization for quick financial transactions. Could the database used for personal devices poise a risk to our security? Will facial recognition technology technology continue to evolve into society? Or, will this mark the beginning of the future of rules and regulations of Big Tech?
Has Facebook uploaded their facial recognition database to the metaverse, before “deleting” their content? What information was gained from these databases and how much of that will be revived in Meta, the new social media ecosystem of the future?
Could a malicious force, like the Chinese Communist Party have gained access to Facebook’s database, causing them to delete their own database to cover evidence of this? Could that data have been sold before being deleted? Is this move to protect user privacy just a distraction to dispose evidence of the platform’s corruption?