Facebook giving up on facial recognition technology

Facebook giving up on facial recognition technology
Date: 11.11.2021 14:47

Social media giant Facebook announced Tuesday it is ending its use of facial recognition technology and deleting the "faceprints" of over a billion users.

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The company, now called Meta but still retaining the name Facebook for its social media platform, said in a statement that "growing societal concerns" were the reason for shutting down the technology, and that "regulators have yet to provide clear rules" on its use.
Whether a Facebook user has opted "in" to facial recognition, which accounts for about 640 million people, or opted "out", all users will have their faceprints deleted.
Facebook has faced withering criticism in the last few weeks, after company whistle-blower Frances Haugen accused Facebook of using algorithms that have fueled dangerous behavior for years.
But concerns over facial recognition and privacy go back further. In 2020, the US state of Illinois successfully sued Facebook for $550 million dollars for violating that state's biometric privacy law by harvesting users' "faceprints" without their express permission.
In 2019, the city of San Francisco, near Facebook's headquarters, became the first city in America to outlaw the technology. It was around that time that the company had started scaling back its use of photo "tagging" using facial recognition.
There have also been concerns that China has used the technology to surveil a region that is home to a largely Muslim population.
"This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology's history," said Jerome Pesenti, head of Meta's artificial intelligence division, in the company statement.
Pesenti touted the benefits of the technology, particularly for blind and visually impaired people. He also said the company is looking at a "narrow set" of instances in which facial recognition could be used to verify a person's identity to use financial products or unlock a personal device.
But Pesenti said concerns about the place of facial recognition in society and "ongoing uncertainty" over how it will ultimately be regulated led to the decision.


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