On Tuesday, social media platform Facebook said it will discontinue its facial recognition system. This is in response to growing objections from users and concerns from regulators.
For almost a decade, Facebook can identify faces in photos. It also tags faces on posts made by users and links them to registered users.
Facebook Will Delete 1 Billion Facial Recognition Files
Facebook, which now works under its new parent company name Meta, announced the decision Tuesday. It said that it will start deleting more than 1 billion facial recognition scans it has in its database.
In a blog post, Facebook said that about a third of all Facebook users opted to use their fledgling facial recognition technology. This is estimated to total over 600 million users worldwide.
As a result, Facebook will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos. It will also affect the automatic alt text technology used by the platform to describe images for the visually impaired.
Consequently, all Facebook services that rely on face recognition systems will deactivate over the coming days.
Regulators Still in the Process of Setting Rules on Facial Recognition
In a post, the company went into detail about their decision. “There are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate,” it said.
The abandonment of the facial recognition system is part of a Meta-wide decision. It plans to move away from “this kind of broad identification,” the post said.
Moving forward, the company will only consider the technology when the need arises for people to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation.
For future uses of facial recognition technology, Meta will “continue to be public about intended use, how people can have control over these systems and their personal data.”
Facebook Cleaning Up Its Act After Whistleblower Exposed Company
Facebook’s decision to shut down a controversial program comes amid a series of controversies surrounding the company.
A former manager, Frances Haugen, blew the lid off the company’s practices that alleges it chose profits over moderation. Haugen brought with her a trove of internal documents as proof of her accusations.
WIth various media sifting through the documents, they saw that Facebook is painfully aware of the harms its apps can cause. It also showed that the company paid only lip service to address these issues.
Facial Recognition Company
Almost a decade ago, Facebook bought Israeli startup Face.com reportedly for $100 million. Part of the purchase included acquiring the team of developers who worked on facial recognition for mobile apps.
The deal with Face.com came months after acquiring Instagram. Many saw the Instagram move as CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s shift from business to mobile.
Earlier last year in July, Facebook agreed to pay a $650 million settlement after getting sued for collecting and storing biometric data without user consent, Collecting this data remains prohibited by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Watch the Los Angeles Times video reporting that Facebook to shut down the facial-recognition system and delete data:
Do you agree with Facebook’s decision to drop its facial recognition programs? What do you think will it focus on instead? Tell us what you think about Facebook. Share your comments in the comments section below.