Facebook plans to shut down its facial recognition program


    Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, October 23, 2019.

    Erin Scott | Reuters

    Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, on Tuesday announced that it will be putting an end to its face recognition system.

    The company announced that this change will impact more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users who have opted into the use of the technology, which is more than 600 million accounts. Overall, Facebook said it will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates.

    With the end of this system, Facebook will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos. The change, however, will also impact the automatic alt text technology that the company uses to describe images for people who are blind or visually impaired.

    “There are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” the company said in a blog post. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

    The end of the face recognition system “involve a company-wide move away from this kind of broad identification,” the company said. Meta will still consider facial recognition technology for instances where people need to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation, the company said. For future uses of facial recognition technology, Meta will “continue to be public about intended use, how people can have control over these systems and their personal data.”

    In 2012, Facebook acquired Israeli start-up for reportedly under $100 million, snapping up a team of developers that focused on facial recognition for mobile apps. The deal came just months after Facebook acquired Instagram, Zuckerberg’s biggest effort at the time to move the business to mobile.

    This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.


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