Facebook to Shut Down Face-Recognition System, Delete Data
AppleMagazine|November 05, 2021
Facebook said it will shut down its face-recognition system and delete the faceprints of more than 1 billion people amid growing concerns about the technology and its misuse by governments, police and others.

“This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology’s history,” Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for Facebook’s new parent company, Meta, wrote in a blog post this week.

He said the company was trying to weigh the positive use cases for the technology “against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.” The company in the coming weeks will delete “more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates,” he said.

Facebook’s about-face follows a busy few weeks. It announced its new name Meta for Facebook the company, but not the social network. The change, it said, will help it focus on building technology for what it envisions as the next iteration of the internet -- the “metaverse.”

The company is also facing perhaps its biggest public relations crisis to date after leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that it has known about the harms its products cause and often did little or nothing to mitigate them.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to questions about how people could verify that their image data was deleted, or what it would be doing with the underlying technology.

More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted in to have their faces recognized by the social network’s system. That’s about 640 million people. Facebook introduced facial recognition more than a decade ago but gradually made it easier to opt out of the feature as it faced scrutiny from courts and regulators.

Facebook in 2019 stopped automatically recognizing people in photos and suggesting people “tag” them, and instead of making that the default, asked users to choose if they wanted to use its facial recognition feature.

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