Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will be shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos due to growing concerns over the use of such technology. The removal of the face recognition feature comes at a time when the social media platform is being scrutinized by everyone over privacy concerns, especially after internal documents were leaked by former executive-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, who testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about Facebook repeatedly lying about its platform and choosing “profit over safety.”
“Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” said Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”
According to Facebook, which renamed itself to Meta Platforms Inc, there are more than one-third of its daily active users currently using the facial recognition feature on the social media site, and the change will now delete “facial recognition templates” of more than 1 billion people.
Facebook users will no longer be recognized in photos and videos and everyone would have to tag people manually as the automated process will not be available anymore. Furthermore, the company said that its automatic alt text tool, which creates image descriptions for the visually impaired people, will no longer include the names of people recognized in photos after the removal of face recognition system.
However, Facebook said that isn’t ruling out using the facial recognition feature in other products as it was a powerful tool for identity verification. “We need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules. 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. We will continue engaging in that conversation and working with the civil society groups and regulators who are leading this discussion.” said the company.
It bears mentioning that several other companies dealing in facial recognition technology have ended sales of such products to law enforcement after critics pointed out that such technology could compromise privacy, target marginalized groups and normalize intrusive surveillance.