Facebook is shutting down its Face Recognition System
In a rather surprising move, Facebook (now Meta) has announced that it’s shutting down its Face Recognition system. The company says it will stop collecting facial recognition data and delete templates it has used to identify users over the years.
As part of the change, Facebook will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in Memories, photos, or videos posted on Facebook (via TechCrunch). Facebook is also removing the option to turn on face recognition for suggested tagging in pictures and videos. The change will also affect the Automatic Alt Text feature, which uses face recognition data to provide image descriptions for people with disabilities. Following the change, the AAT feature will still be able to recognize the number of people in a photo but won’t identify individuals. Finally, Facebook says it will delete templates it uses to identify users for those who have opted into face recognition.
Facebook implemented face recognition back in 2010 to automatically provide tag suggestions for people in photos. The feature was automatically enabled for everyone, and it was only in 2017 that Facebook made it opt-in.
“In the coming weeks, we will shut down the Face Recognition system on Facebook as part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in our products. As part of this change, people who have opted in to our Face Recognition setting will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and we will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them,” said Jerome Pesenti, artificial intelligence VP, Meta.
Facebook says it reached this decision after “a lot of consideration.” The company still sees facial recognition technology as “a powerful tool” that can be quite useful for use cases like personal authentication.
The move comes as Facebook faces increased scrutiny and criticism from regulators and privacy advocates over how it handles user privacy and collects excessive sensitive user data.