- Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, on Tuesday announced it will be putting an end to its face recognition system.
- The company said it will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates as a result of this change.
- Facebook services that rely on the face recognition systems will be removed over the coming weeks, Meta said.
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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the virtual Facebook Connect event, where the company announced its rebranding as Meta, in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Facebook on Tuesday announced it will be putting an end to its facial recognition system amid growing concern from users and regulators.
The social network, whose parent company is now named Meta, said it will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates as a result of this change. The company said in a blog post that more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users, or over 600 million accounts, had opted into the use of the face recognition technology.
Facebook will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos, the post said. The change, however, will also impact the automatic alt text technology that the company uses to describe images for people who are blind or visually impaired. Facebook services that rely on the face recognition systems will be removed over the coming weeks.
“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,” the company said. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”WATCH NOWVIDEO04:17Facebook name change more for investors and employees, UPenn marketing professor says
Ending the use of the face recognition system is part of “a company-wide move away from this kind of broad identification,” the post said.
Meta, which laid out its road map last week for the creation of a massive virtual world, said it will still consider facial recognition technology for instances where people need 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.”
The decision to shut down the system on Facebook comes amid a barrage of news reports over the past month after Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, released a trove of internal company documents to news outlets, lawmakers and regulators.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., adjusts an avatar of himself during the virtual Facebook Connect event, where the company announced its rebranding as Meta, in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The reports show that Facebook is aware of many of the harms its apps and services cause but either doesn’t rectify the issues or struggles to address them.
In 2012, Facebook acquired Israeli start-up Face.com for reportedly under $100 million, snapping up a team of developers who focused on facial recognition for mobile apps. The deal came just months after Facebook acquired Instagram, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest effort at the time to move the business to mobile.
In July 2020, the company agreed to pay a $650 million settlement after it was sued for collecting and storing biometric data without first getting user consent, which is prohibited by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. will no longer use facial recognition for photos and videos shared to the company’s flagship social network, saying it needs to weigh the benefits against growing concerns about the technology.
The social media giant has used facial recognition since 2010 to encourage people to tag friends or family members in photos and videos, and to alert people if another user uploads a picture that they’re in. It eventually added some privacy constraints, and in 2017 it let people opt out of facial recognition. In 2019 Facebook turned off the feature by default, though users could choose to turn it on.