Why is Facebook removing its facial recognition software?

Facebook is removing its Face Recognition technology and deleting more than one billion users’ facial recognition templates

Facebook has announced it is shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos.

The company, which recently rebranded itself as “Meta”, has said that Face Recognition will be shut down in the “coming weeks”, and comes as part of a “company-wide move limit the use of facial recognition” in its products.

“Every new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern, and we want to find the right balance. In the case of facial recognition, its long-term role in society needs to be debated in the open, and among those who will be most impacted by it,” Jerome Pesenti, VP of Artificial Intelligence at Facebook, said in a blog post. 

As part of this change, people who have opted into the Face Recognition setting, which is more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users, will no longer be automatically recognised in photos and videos, and Facebook will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them.  

The removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates. 

 

Removing facial recognition amid growing societal concerns

For years, Facebook has given people the option to be automatically notified when they appear in photos or videos posted by others and provided recommendations for who to tag in photos. 

Ending the use of our existing Face Recognition system means the services it enables will be removed over the coming weeks, as will the setting allowing people to opt into the system. 

This will lead to a number of changes:

  • Facebook’s technology will no longer automatically recognise if people’s faces appear in Memories, photos or videos.
  • People will no longer be able to turn on face recognition for suggested tagging or see a suggested tag with their name in photos and videos they may appear in. 
  • This change will also impact Automatic Alt Text (AAT), a technology used to create image descriptions for people who are blind or visually impaired. AAT currently identifies people in about 4% of photos. After the change, AAT will still be able to recognise how many people are in a photo, but will no longer attempt to identify who each person is using facial recognition. 
  • If you have opted into the Face Recognition setting, Facebook will delete the template used to identify you. If you have the face recognition setting turned off, there is no template to delete and there will be no change. 

Looking ahead, Facebook still sees facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation. The company has said they will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts. 

 

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