Facebook to end use of facial recognition amid rising societal concerns

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The US-based social media platform, Facebook is shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos, marking a massive shift for the company which is known for collecting a vast amount of data about its billions of users.

Facebook is also planning to delete the data it had gathered through its use of facial recognition software, due to increasing societal concerns about this technology.

“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,” Mr. Jerome Pesenti, Vice President of artificial intelligence at Facebook, said.

The removal of facial recognition by the world’s largest social media platform comes as the industry has faced a reckoning over the past few years over the ethics of using the technology. Critics have raised their concern that facial recognition technology which is popular among retailers, hospitals and other businesses for security purposes, could compromise privacy, target marginalized groups and normalize intrusive surveillance. 

The news also comes as Facebook has been under intense scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over user safety and a wide range of abuses on its platforms. The removal will roll out globally and is expected to be completed by December, a Facebook spokesperson said.

The company, which last week renamed itself Meta Platforms, said more than one-third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted into the face recognition setting on the social media site, and the change will now delete the “facial recognition templates” of more than 1 billion people.

Facebook added that its automatic alt-text tool, which generates image descriptions for visually impaired people, will no longer include the names of people recognized in photos after the removal of face recognition, but will otherwise function normally.

Facebook did not rule out using facial recognition technology in other products, saying it still sees it as a “powerful tool” for steps like identity verification.

The company’s facial recognition software has long been the subject of scrutiny. The US Federal Trade Commission included it among the concerns when it fined Facebook $5 billion to settle privacy complaints in 2019.

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