- Facebook’s facial recognition system will soon be put to an end, Meta announced on Tuesday.
- The data of around 1 billion individual facial recognition templates will reportedly be deleted.
- Meta added that the removal of the system will start in the coming weeks.
Meta, the newly named parent company of Facebook, announced on Tuesday that it will be shutting down Facebook’s facial recognition system this month. The company will also delete the face scan data of over 1 billion users.
Jerome Pesenti, Meta’s vice president of artificial intelligence, explained, “There are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”
Pesenti added that automatic descriptions of photos for blind and visually impaired people will no longer contain people’s names.
According to the company’s blog post, more than one-third of the social media app’s daily active users have opted into its Face Recognition setting.
Facebook had also previously planned to integrate facial recognition technology into its other products, such as its smart glasses. The company stated that it could be used to identify someone you can’t remember, but employees and critics pointed out that it could be abused by “stalkers.” The technology wasn’t added to Facebook’s first pair of smart glasses, Ray-Ban Stories.
The controversial technology had given users the option to allow notifications when they appear in photos and videos posted by others. However, face scans can be converted to identifiable data, which presents concerns on privacy and civil rights.
The technology has also been prone to mistakes involving people of color.
When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tested similar technology used by Amazon, 28 Congress members, about 40% of whom were people of color, were matched incorrectly with arrest mugshots.
Since there are no federal regulations in place yet, some cities and states decided to ban facial recognition systems from being used by police and the government. These include San Francisco, California; Jackson, Mississippi; Portland, Oregon; Boston, Cambridge; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Maine.
A class-action lawsuit earlier this year touched upon Facebook’s photo-tagging feature, which suggests tags by using scans of previously uploaded photos. The lawsuit alleged that the scans were made without consent and therefore violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, which regulates facial recognition, fingerprinting, and other biometric technologies. The judge in that case approved a $650 million settlement.
The recent move was applauded by privacy and civil rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The ACLU tweeted their approval and called on Congress for “enforceable rules that prohibit companies from scanning our faces without our consent.”