On Tuesday, Meta, Facebook’s newly renamed parent company, stated that it was discontinuing its usage of a face recognition system on its social networking site.
The statement comes in the wake of rising criticism from advocacy organisations worried about privacy problems, claims of racial prejudice in algorithms, and other worries about how artificial intelligence technology recognises people’s faces in photos. It also comes at a time when the computer behemoth is under increased scrutiny from politicians and others.
“We need to balance the beneficial use cases for face recognition against rising social concerns,” said Jerome Pesenti, Meta’s vice president of artificial intelligence, in a corporate blog post on Tuesday.
“We will shut down the Face Recognition technology on Facebook in the coming weeks as part of a company-wide initiative to limit the usage of face recognition in our products,” says Facebook.
“People who have opted into our Face Recognition option will no longer be automatically detected in images and videos, and we will remove the facial recognition template that was used to identify them,” Pesenti explained.
Face Recognition Technology
Face recognition is used by more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users, and its elimination “would result in the erasure of more than a billion people’s individual face recognition templates,” according to Pesenti.
Looking ahead, Pesenti said Meta still views facial recognition technology as a tool that may be used to authenticate people’s identities or prevent fraud or impersonation, and that the business will continue to work on it while “engaging outside experts.”
“However, the numerous cases where face recognition might be beneficial must be balanced against rising worries about the usage of this technology in general,” Pesenti noted. “Many people are concerned about the role of face recognition technology in society, and regulators are still working on establishing clear guidelines for its usage. In light of the persistent ambiguity, we feel that restricting the deployment of face recognition to a limited range of scenarios is the best course of action.”
According to Pesenti, removing Facebook’s facial recognition technology would result in a variety of changes for users, including the site no longer automatically recognising if people’s faces appear in photographs or videos, and users will no longer be able to switch it on for photo tag recommendations. The Facebook business also plans to remove the template that was previously used to identify users who have utilised the option.
According to Pesenti, the change will affect the automated alt-text feature, which generates picture descriptions for blind and visually impaired persons. The descriptions will no longer include the names of people detected in photographs, but will otherwise operate correctly.
The news comes as the internet giant is engaged in a slew of scandals. Frances Haugen, a business whistleblower, recently testified before parliamentarians, stating that Facebook officials showed obvious indifference when they realised that their platform may impair democracy and the mental health of young people.
While some digital rights organisations applauded Facebook’s acknowledgement of the dangers of face recognition technology, they nevertheless advocated for a complete prohibition.
“Face recognition is one of the most destructive and politically poisonous technologies ever devised. Even Facebook is aware of this “Campaign director for the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future, Caitlin Seeley George.
“We cannot trust governments, law enforcement, or private companies with this kind of invasive surveillance,” she added, “from misidentifying Black and Brown people (which has already resulted in wrongful arrests) to making it impossible to move through our lives without being constantly surveilled.” “Facial recognition will only become more harmful as algorithms develop.”
The technology might allow governments to target and punish religious minority or political dissidents, as well as develop new stalking and identity theft tools. “It should be forbidden,” Seeley George remarked plainly.