Facebook to shut down face recognition for photo tagging

Facebook has built possibly the world’s largest repository of digital photos anywhere in the world, and the corresponding facial recognition algorithms at work all these years give it precise data of who is who
Facebook has decided to shut down its face recognition feature for photo tagging. (AFP/File)
Facebook has decided to shut down its face recognition feature for photo tagging. (AFP/File)
Updated on Nov 03, 2021 02:09 PM IST
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Facebook, which has changed its company name to Meta, has announced plans to shut down the facial recognition system used to tag people in photos and videos posted on the platform for about a decade. The move comes amid privacy issues, negative public perception, and the company’s plans to focus on the metaverse.

“This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology’s history,” said Jerome Pesenti, Meta’s vice-president, artificial intelligence.

As with most Meta things, the shutdown of the face recognition algorithms will not be immediate. It will happen sometime over the next few weeks.

Facebook has built possibly the world’s largest repository of digital photos anywhere in the world, and the corresponding facial recognition algorithms at work all these years give it precise data of who is who.

Also Read: Facebook’s ‘metaverse’ can take up to 15 years, says senior executive

The feature was first introduced in December 2010, and it automatically suggested tags for people in photos uploaded on Facebook. In 2019, Facebook switched the feature to opt-in. Earlier this year, Facebook paid $650 million in settlement for a lawsuit that said the company’s face recognition algorithms violated the biometric privacy law in the US state of Illinois.

Meta has said over a third of its daily active users opted to enable the face recognition setting and were able to be recognised. It has not said it will delete more than a billion individual facial recognition templates.

“Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation. 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,” said Pesenti.

Meta has said it will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.

Till now, Facebook is believed to have only used the facial recognition data within its platform. The functionalities included the ability to gain access to a locked Facebook account.

Facebook has bungled with user data privacy. A whistle-blower last month highlighted the issues related to content moderation and Facebook’s interest in elections in certain countries. They have raised concerns over the facial recognition data it has amassed over the years.

Meta’s decision does not change what independent companies such as Clearview AI and others can continue to do: scrape photos and videos off the internet including social media platforms to develop and train their own facial recognition algorithms. Clearview AI claims to be the world’s largest facial recognition platform and has a database of over three million images indexed from the internet.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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