Meta, which is now Facebook’s parent company, said it was closing down its facial recognition technology that identified and tagged images uploaded onto their platform.
Jerome Pesenti is the vice president of artificial intelligence at the company. He stated, “This change will constitute one the largest shifts facial recognition usage in technology’s history.” More than three quarters of Facebook’s active users are now able to recognize their faces by using our Face Recognition settings. This setting will be removed, resulting in more than one billion individual facial recognition templates being deleted. According to the company, it was forced to shut down its facial recognition software due “growing concerns about the role of facial recognition technology within society.”
The fact that the company was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 to settle privacy complaints—including concerns over facial recognition—and settled a class action suit earlier this year for $650 million over violating Illinois’ consent requirement for using biometric information, very likely played a role here too. In its 2019 decision in Illinois, the U.S. Court of Appeals noted that:
Facebook has the ability to create a face-template of an individual. This template can be used by Facebook to identify the individual in any one of hundreds of millions uploaded each day to Facebook. Also, it can determine the date and time that the individual was at a particular location. Facebook also allows the user to identify their Facebook friends and acquaintances that are in the photograph. Taking into account the future development of such technology…it seems likely that a face-mapped individual could be identified from a surveillance photo taken on the streets or in an office building.
Social recognition technology is a controversial topic. Clearview AI has been selling its surveillance and tracking services to many local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Clearview AI also scraped Facebook photos without consent.
Adam Schwartz is senior counsel with Electronic Frontier Foundation and a civil rights organization. He stated, “Facebook leaving the face recognition business was a pivotal point in the growing national discomfort using this technology.” The New York Times. “Corporate face surveillance can be very harmful to the privacy of individuals.”
It is risky to monitor corporate faces because the government could demand that companies hand over all data they have in order to establish essentially an authoritarian surveillance system. Woodrow Hartzog (a Northeastern University professor of law, computer science, and Evan Selinger (a Rochester Institute of Technology philosopher) wrote that facial recognition was the best tool to oppression. This is what they convincingly claim in Medium“The most dangerous and inhumane surveillance system ever created.” A real-time deployment facial recognition technologies could transform our faces into permanent ID cards for the police.
Facebook stated in its statement that the future use of these technologies will need to be discussed openly and with those most affected. Yes.