October 1, 2022
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Facebook (now known as Facebook) is reportedly planning to shut down its Facial Recognition system used to tag people in photos and videos posted on the platform and it will delete the facial recognition templates that it uses for identification following a lengthy privacy battle. The company said the change will roll out in the coming weeks.

Meta artificial intelligence, vice president, Jerome Pesenti said: “This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology’s history.”

The move follows a lawsuit that accused Facebook’s tagging tech of violating Illinois’ biometric privacy law, leading to a $650 million settlement in February. 

Pesenti said: “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. We believe facial recognition can help for products like these with privacy, transparency, and control in place, so you decide if and how your face is used.”

Pesenti notes that regulators haven’t settled on comprehensive privacy regulation for facial recognition. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.

Pesenti says more than one-third of Facebook’s daily active users had opted into Face Recognition scanning, and over a billion face recognition profiles will be deleted as part of the upcoming change. As part of the change, Facebook’s automated alt-text system for blind users will no longer name people when it’s analyzing and summarizing media, and it will no longer suggest people to tag in photographs or automatically notify users when they appear in photos and videos posted by others.

Meta’s decision does not change what independent companies such as Clearview AI and others can continue to do: scrape photos and videos off the internet including social media platforms to develop and train their own facial recognition algorithms. Clearview AI claims to be the world’s largest facial recognition platform and has a database of over three million images indexed from the internet.

US law enforcement agencies (alongside other government divisions) work with Clearview AI and other companies for facial recognition-powered surveillance. State or national privacy laws would be needed to restrict the technology’s use more broadly.

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