Facebook
Facebook. Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Facebook announced today that it is shutting down face recognition as part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in its products.

This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology’s history.

“More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted in to our Face Recognition setting and are able to be recognized, and its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates,” said Jerome Pesenti, VP of Artificial Intelligence at Facebook.

Making this change required careful consideration, because we have seen a number of places where face recognition can be highly valued by people using platforms.

For example, Facebook’s award-winning automatic alt text system, that uses advanced AI to generate descriptions of images for people who are blind and visually impaired, uses the Face Recognition system to tell them when they or one of their friends is in an image.

For many years, Facebook has also 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. These features are also powered by the Face Recognition system which we are shutting down.

“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,” said Pesenti.

“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. We will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts. ”

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.

“Every new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern, and we want to find the right balance,” said Pesenti.

“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.

“We will continue engaging in that conversation and working with the civil society groups and regulators who are leading this discussion.”

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