Facebook is shutting down its controversial face recognition program. The company has vowed to delete over a BILLION templates of people’s faces scanned and uploaded by Facebook users for tagging friends in photos. This decision comes after months of criticism from privacy-minded individuals who felt like their every move was being tracked on Facebook.
The decision has been made as part of “a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in our products,” Jerome Pesenti, Facebook’s VP of Artificial Intelligence, said on Tuesday.
People who have opted in will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and Facebook will delete more than a billion people’s individual face recognition patterns.
For years, Facebook has given users the option of being automatically notified when they appear in photos or videos posted by others and receiving suggestions for who to tag in photos. The Face Recognition technology that is shutting down is also used for these functions.
“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. We will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.”, Presenti says.
Several privacy advocates took to Twitter to celebrate the move as a significant victory against surveillance tech overreach:
The social network made the announcement as it comes under increased pressure from an ever-growing pool of tech-savvy users that are concerned about privacy and the invasion of our personal lives.
The sudden change of direction for Facebook seems to align closely with the rebranding campaign and name change to Meta. Perhaps Facebook sees this as an ideal opportunity to reset its global image and bring itself into closer alignment with the needs and concerns of its users.
“Making this change required us to weigh the instances where facial recognition can be helpful against the growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole,” said Jason Grosse, a Meta spokesperson.
Mr. Grosee also said that although Facebook will be deleting more than a billion recognition patterns, the underlying software that powers facial recognition, known as DeepFace, will remain. Facebook has also not ruled out incorporating facial recognition into future products.
So it will remain to be seen as to whether we can close the lid on facial recognition wholly or if this technology will one day rear its head again in a new form.