Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will stop using facial-recognition software that can automatically recognize people in images and videos shared on the social network, signaling a major shift in the tech industry and for a corporation that collects large quantities of data on its billions of users.
Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in late October, also stated that it intends to destroy the data it obtained through its usage of this software, which is linked to the faces of over a billion people. The decision was made in a blog post by artificial intelligence vice president Jerome Pesenti and comes as the corporation is under fire for the potential real-world consequences of its social platforms following the disclosure of hundreds of internal papers by a whistleblower.
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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 usage of facial recognition in our products” in the coming weeks.
However, Facebook will continue to work on facial recognition technology and may utilize it in the future in its products, which vary from social networks to a futuristic set of picture-taking spectacles.
“Looking ahead,” Pesenti added, “we still see face recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for those who need to authenticate their identity or avoid fraud and impersonation.”
In his piece, Pesenti raised worries about the technology’s appropriateness, which has come under investigation as it becomes more widely used but, at least in the United States, is barely regulated.
“We must balance the beneficial use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns,” Pesenti added, “particularly as regulators have yet to set clear standards.
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The judgment, according to Woodrow Hartzog, a law and computer science professor at Northeastern University, is a “victory” that demonstrates the importance of continued privacy advocacy and criticism of digital corporations.