Facebook has announced that it will shut down its social network’s Face Recognition system as part of a company-wide effort to limit the use of facial recognition technology in its products.
First introduced back in 2010, the company’s Face Recognition feature allows users of its social network to automatically tag photos with their friends’ names. While the feature was enabled by default at launch, the company reversed course and made users opt-in to use it in 2019.
Facebook’s change will represent one of the largest shifts in the use of facial recognition technology as more than a third of its daily active users have opted in to use Face Recognition. As a result, the company will delete more than 1bn of its users’ individual facial recognition templates.
While Facebook has decided to shutter its Face Recognition system, VP of AI at its new parent company Meta, Jerome Pesenti explained in a blog post that the social network has used facial recognition to benefit a number of its users in other ways.
For instance, the company’s award-winning automatic alt text system uses advanced AI to generate descriptions of images for the blind and visually impaired to let them know when they or one of their friends is in an image.
Going forward, Facebook still sees facial recognition as a powerful tool that can be used to help people verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation. At the same time though, the company is waiting for regulators to provide a clear set of rules governing the use of facial recognition. Until then, Facebook believes that limiting the use of the technology to a narrow set of use cases is the right step.
Now that Facebook has announced that it will limit the use of facial recognition and shut down its Face Recognition feature, other tech giants and even startups could follow suit as well which would be a boon to privacy advocates.
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