On Tuesday, Facebook announced their plans about how they are going to discontinue with the facial-recognition software that could automatically recognise people in their photos and videos which are posted on the social network. This is going to mark a massive shift both for the tech industry and for a company known for collecting large amount of data about its billions of users.
In end of October, Facebook changed its company name to “Meta” and they also said that they now plan to delete the data that they have gathered over the years, about over a billion people’s faces through its use of this software.
The decision was announced in a blog post by artificial intelligence vice president Jerome Pesenti, and comes as the company is under fire for the potential real-world harms of its social platforms following the leak of hundreds of internal documents by a whistleblower.
According to Pesenti, the world’s largest social network will shut down its facial-recognition system “as part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in our products” in the coming weeks.
However, Facebook will continue to work on facial recognition technology and may use it in the future in its products, which range from social networks to a futuristic pair of picture-taking glasses.
“Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity, or to prevent fraud and impersonation,” Pesenti wrote.
In his post, Pesenti raised concerns about the technology’s appropriateness, which has come under scrutiny as it becomes more widely used but, at least in the United States, is barely regulated.
“We need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules,” Pesenti wrote.
The decision, according to Woodrow Hartzog, a law and computer science professor at Northeastern University, is a “win” that demonstrates the importance of ongoing privacy advocacy and criticism of tech companies.
“It also shows that these technologies are neither inevitable, nor are they indispensable,” he said.