After a decade of deploying the feature, Facebook Face Recognition is coming to an end. Meta, Facebook’s new parent company, has decided to shut down Facebook’s facial recognition system amidst “growing societal concerns.”
Jerome Pesenti, VP of Artificial Intelligence at Meta, announced the update in a blog post. He writes that facial recognition’s “long-term role in society needs to be debated in the open, and among those who will be most impacted by it.”
Facebook facial recognition has been a hot topic for debates and privacy concerns among users. Many privacy advocates have objected to the volumes of data Facebook collected for facial recognition. According to Facebook’s own blog, the company has over a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates. While it is a step towards more privacy on the platform, it may affect how some users use Facebook.
How Does Facebook’s Face Recognition Change Affect You?
Facebook uses its facial recognition to recognize people in an image and suggest tags. If you sign up for facial recognition on Facebook, you’ll be notified if you appear in someone’s picture, whether they tag you or not. So the first change is that Facebook will no longer suggest people tag based on facial recognition.
Moreover, the change will also affect visually challenged users. Face recognition generates image descriptions called automatic alt text (AATs) for blind users to know who is in the pictures. With the feature shut down, there will be no more AATs with people’s names.
Facebook has been in a lot of trouble because of its use of face recognition recently. In 2019, the FTC imposed a $5 billion penalty on the company, holding it responsible for user privacy. Facial recognition was the reason for this penalty, and Facebook was asked to provide “clear and conspicuous notice” of its use. The FTC also ordered Facebook to get express user consent before using the data anywhere.
The company took another hit because of the feature in February 2021, when it was fined $650 million. This was because Facebook failed to obtain user consent before using facial recognition. So now, the company has shut down the program altogether and is now waiting for clear rules and regulations around facial data.