Facebook will disable facial recognition system

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Facebook announced this Tuesday (2) that it is shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos, citing growing society concerns about the use of this technology.

“Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing their use,” said Jerome Pesenti, Meta’s vice president of artificial intelligence, in a blog. “Amidst this continuing uncertainty, we believe it is appropriate to limit the use of facial recognition to a restricted set of use cases.”

The company, which last week changed its name to Meta, said more than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted for the facial recognition setting on the social media site, and the change will now delete “facial recognition templates” from more than 1 billion people.

The removal will be implemented globally and should be completed by December, a Facebook spokesman said.

Facebook added that its automatic alt-text tool, which creates image descriptions for people with low vision, will no longer include the names of recognized people in photos after face recognition is removed, but will function normally.

The removal of facial recognition by the world’s largest social media platform comes at a time when the tech industry has faced a reckoning in recent years amid criticism that the technology could falsely identify people as part of crimes or favor white faces.

Facebook is also under intense scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over user safety and a wide range of abuses on its platforms.

Privacy advocates welcomed the news, though some were skeptical it was just an effort to score points amid recent public relations disasters.

“I get evenly divided comments between people who think Facebook’s decision to stop using its facial recognition system and remove facial impressions is a big deal and those who believe it’s a desperate attempt to get positive headlines and that it doesn’t change anything. substantially,” tweeted Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Privacy Concerns

The facial identification, launched in 2010, underwent changes to enhance privacy, which did not prevent, however, a significant process that forced Facebook to agree to the disbursement of US$ 650 million in 2020, after the court claimed that had illegally collected biometric information to “mark faces” in violation of a 2008 Illinois privacy law.

It was one of the most substantial settlements for a US privacy case, surpassed only by the $5 billion Facebook agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission for its data management practices. Both are awaiting court approval.

Several American cities, including San Francisco, have banned the use of facial recognition technology. There is a concern with the creation of large databases with the possibility of errors in identifying some people.

Under pressure from the media and organizations in the United States, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google have stopped, at least temporarily, from selling facial recognition software to authorities.

“Facial recognition is one of the most dangerous and politically toxic technologies ever created. Even Facebook knows that,” said Caitlin Seeley George, head of digital advocacy group Fight for the Future.

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