Facebook recently announced that it would delete its facial recognition system along with the facial recognition templates of more than a billion people.
The company, which recently rebranded itself as Meta, said that the deletion is part of its efforts of limiting the use of such technology in its products and that it would happen in the coming weeks.
With its removal, Facebook users who previously chose to use the technology will no longer be recognized in photos and videos uploaded to Facebook automatically. Additionally, Facebook's automatic alt-text system would no longer include the names of people identified in photos and videos but would still function normally.
According to Meta's Vice President of Artificial Intelligence, Jerome Pesenti, the company's decision to shut down Facebook's facial recognition system was made with careful consideration. This caution was due to Meta seeing several options where people using platforms can highly value face recognition. He also said that the change would represent "one of the largest in facial recognition usage in the technology's history".
He also said that shutting the technology down was appropriate as regulators are still working out a clear set of rules to guide companies to use facial recognition technology to relieve concerns about its place in society.
Nevertheless, Meta still sees the technology as a tool that could be used to verify people's identities or to prevent fraud and impersonation, promising to continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.
"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 said.
Whether this means Facebook would use facial recognition technology to unlock a person's account is still unclear.
Privacy and digital rights advocates were reported to have welcomed Meta's decision.
Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Adam Schwartz said that Meta's decision to remove the technology concerned might be " a notable moment in the national turning-away from face recognition". This was even though Facebook's move was preceded by other tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft.
Facebook's facial recognition system was previously introduced back in 2019 when Meta showcased the social media platform's ability to automatically suggest tags of your friends in your photos and videos.
A Meta spokesperson said that the system's removal is expected to be completed by December 2021.
Written by John Paul Joaquin