Facebook plans to shut down its facial recognition system

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The change affects more than a third of daily Facebook users who have facial recognition enabled for their accounts, according to the company. This meant that they received alerts when new photos or videos of them were uploaded to the social network. The feature had also been used to flag accounts that might impersonate someone else and was incorporated into software that described photos to blind users.

“To make this change, we had to weigh cases where facial recognition may be useful against growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole,” said Jason Grosse, spokesperson for Meta.

Although Facebook plans to remove over a billion facial recognition models, which are digital scans of facial features, by December it won’t eliminate the software that powers the system, which is an advanced algorithm called DeepFace. The company also hasn’t ruled out incorporating facial recognition technology into its future products, Mr. Grosse said.

Privacy advocates have applauded the decision, however.

“Facebook’s exit from the facial recognition industry is a pivotal moment in the growing national malaise with this technology,” said Adam Schwartz, senior counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties advocacy organization. “The use of facial surveillance by companies is very dangerous for people’s privacy. “

Facebook isn’t the first big tech company to pull out of facial recognition software. Amazon, Microsoft and IBM have suspended or stopped selling their facial recognition products to law enforcement in recent years, while voicing concerns about privacy and algorithmic bias and calling for clearer regulation.

Facebook’s facial recognition software has a long and expensive history. When the software was rolled out in Europe in 2011, data protection authorities said the move was illegal and the company needed consent to analyze a person’s photos and extract the unique pattern. an individual face. In 2015, the technology also led to the filing of a class action lawsuit in Illinois.

Over the past decade, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based privacy advocacy group, has filed two complaints about Facebook’s use of facial recognition with the FTC When the FTC fined Facebook in 2019, it appointed the site’s confusing privacy settings around facial recognition as one of the reasons for the penalty.


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