Facebook has announced that it will stop using facial recognition technology and delete the data of over one billion people. Commenters see the move as a reversal that’s potentially part of Facebook’s attempt to rebrand.
Facebook has been using facial recognition to automatically tag people in photos since 2010. Arguably, it helped proliferate this technology which now Google and Apple use too. Of course, this method’s applications have exploded since 2010.
While many companies still rely on it for organizing users’ photos, it’s also present in background checks, live surveillance, and people search sites. The practice draws controversy. Previous research shows the technology bias minorities.
In a comment to The Washington Post, Facebook VP of AI, Jerome Pesenti, noted that the instances in which facial recognition is useful must be weighed against the potential harm.
A Potential Turning Point
Like Facebook, many other companies and even governments have grown wary of the technology’s dangers. Both IBM and Amazon no longer license or sell their facial recognition tech to law enforcement.
The EU has passed a resolution looking at severely limiting the use of this identification method. While many are now second-guessing the tech, some intend to keep pushing forward. This exposes a flaw in the current setup.
Although Facebook is deleting its data, the site itself is still a resource for other entities that want to gather faceprints. For example, the controversial company Clearview AI intends to keep scraping data despite the increasing scrutiny on facial recognition.
For these reasons and more, numerous companies are now trying to curb the practice. That said, many wonder if this is a step by Facebook to garner goodwill.
After the scrutiny it’s drawn recently, this may be part of its rebranding into “Meta”—the company that hopes to reshape the web as we know it.