Facebook Shuts Down Facial Recognition Photo Tag System and Deletes Data of 1 Billion Users
By: Sapna Maurya
Facebook is shutting down its photo-tagging facial recognition program, one of its key services for years. It has deleted the face data of around one billion users amid growing concerns about the technology and its misuse, company representatives told the AFP.
More than a third of Facebook’s users have opted for the face recognition tag setting daily in the eleven years that it had been active. The system was launched in 2010 as a way for users to save time. Before this, tagging was a manual process. The facial-recognition software automatically identified people who appeared in users’ digital photo albums and suggested users “tag” them all with a click, linking their accounts to the images.
“We’re shutting down the Face Recognition system on Facebook, as part of this change, people who have opted in to our Face Recognition setting will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and we will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them,” Jerome Pesenti, Vice President of artificial intelligence at Meta (Facebook’s newly renamed parent company) wrote on his blog.
Face recognition became so embedded in Facebook’s design that it became a core security feature. If a user tried to log in to Facebook from an unrecognised device, they would be presented with random tagged photos of their friend and correctly identify who was in the picture. It also eventually began notifying people who were in photos that they weren’t tagged in.
The newly rebranded company had said in a press statement, “We believe facial recognition can help for products like these with privacy, transparency and control in place, so you decide if and how your face is used. We will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.”
However, Facebook is not entirely out of the facial processing scene. Andrew Bosworth, one of its top executives, has publicly stated that Meta “still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool” for preventing fraud and impersonation. It must be noted that Bosworth told the New York Times that it is not getting rid of DeepFace, the software that powers its facial recognition system.
Facebook has been under attack on multiple fronts from governments, law enforcement agencies, media and privacy activists over the privacy-invading software and the potential of this tech to influence mass decision making. In the US, there is an ongoing investigation into Facebook’s mismanagement of extremist content that led to the Capitol Hill riots earlier this year.
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