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Facebook's Face Recognition System Is Shutting Down

Facebook landing page logo AH 2020
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Meta said it would delete the Face Recognition system on Facebook over the next few weeks. This means that Facebook will no longer identify individuals based on its AI algorithms. Moreover, it will involve deleting over a billion facial recognition templates.

“For many years, Facebook has also given people the option to be automatically notified when they appear in photos or videos posted by others, and provided recommendations for who to tag in photos. These features are also powered by the Face Recognition system which we are shutting down,” the company said in a post (via).

The company could limit facial recognition technology for on-device tasks

Additionally, captions/descriptions based on the Automatic Alt Text (AAT) tech for the visually impaired will no longer name people identified in pictures.

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Meta said the decision was based on “growing concerns” about facial recognition. The company also cited the uncertainty around future regulations of the tech. The recently rebranded company has also faced regulatory obstacles in the past, so it probably doesn’t want to take a broader risk with facial recognition technology.

In February, a federal judge approved a $650 million settlement from Facebook as part of a class-action lawsuit. The company was reportedly in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. The sum was to be paid to 1.6 million members of the class in Illinois. So the company’s move to shut down facial recognition technology isn’t surprising.

“Facial recognition can be particularly valuable when the technology operates privately on a person’s own devices,” the company notes. This implies that Meta wants to keep its facial recognition efforts limited to on-device tasks.

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Meta is understandably taking a careful approach towards sensitive topics following past criticism related to user privacy. In fact, the barrage of criticism over the years may have caused the company to rebrand itself.

“Every new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern, and we want to find the right balance,” the company said in closing. Other companies like Amazon and Google have also taken a cautious approach towards facial recognition technologies.

In related news, Meta announced recently that its VR headsets will not require a Facebook sign-in starting 2022. This would apply to headsets like the Quest and Quest 2.

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