Facebook to Shut Down Face-recognition System, Delete Data

Facebook has said that its face-recognition system will be shut down and that the faceprints of over 1 billion individuals will be deleted.

In a blog post published Tuesday, Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for Facebook’s new parent company, Meta, wrote: “This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology’s history. Its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates.” 

He said the corporation was weighing the technology’s positive applications “against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.”

The corporation’s about-face comes after a hectic few weeks for the company. It unveiled a new name for the firm — Meta — but not for the social network on Thursday. It claims that the new moniker will allow it to focus on developing technologies for the “metaverse,” which it describes as the next version of the internet.

The corporation is also dealing with what may be its worst public relations crisis to date after records disclosed by whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed that it was aware of the problems caused by its products but did little or nothing to ameliorate them.

More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have agreed to have their faces recognized by the platform. This equates to approximately 640 million individuals. However, after implementing facial recognition more than a decade ago, Facebook has just begun to reduce its usage.

In 2019, the firm stopped utilizing face recognition technologies to automatically identify users’ friends in uploaded photographs and propose they “tag” them. In Illinois, Facebook was sued over its tag suggestion feature.

Researchers and privacy advocates have questioned the technology for years, citing research that revealed it worked differently depending on race, gender, or age.

Concerns have also grown as more people become aware of the Chinese government’s vast video monitoring system, which has been deployed in a region with a strong Muslim ethnic minority population.

Some localities in the United States have taken steps to prohibit police and other municipal departments from using facial recognition software. San Francisco became the first city in the United States to restrict technology, which has long been a source of concern for privacy and civil liberties groups.

Other U.S. tech companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM decided last year to cease or pause their sales of facial recognition software to police, citing worries about false identifications and amid a broader awakening in the United States about policing and racial inequality.

In October, President Joe Biden’s science and technology office launched a fact-finding mission to investigate facial recognition and other biometric capabilities used to identify people or assess their emotional, mental, or character states.

As part of a broader push to control the riskiest applications of artificial intelligence, European authorities and politicians have taken steps to prevent police enforcement from scanning facial features in public settings.

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