Providence, RI – Facebook has announced that it will shut down its facial recognition system and remove facial prints from more than a billion people.
“This change will represent one of the biggest changes in the use of facial recognition in the history of the technology,” said a blog post from Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for the news on Tuesday. Facebook’s parent company, Meta. âIts removal will result in the removal of over a billion individual facial recognition models from over a billion people. “
He said the company was trying to weigh the technology’s positive use cases “against growing societal concerns, especially since regulators have yet to provide clear rules.”
Facebook’s about-face follows a busy few weeks for the company. On Thursday, he announced a new name – Meta – for the company, but not the social network. The new name, he said, will help him focus on creating technology for what he sees as the next iteration of the Internet – the âmetaverseâ.
The company is also facing its biggest public relations crisis to date after documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen showed she was aware of the damage her products were causing and often did. little or nothing to mitigate them.
More than a third of daily active Facebook users have chosen to have their faces recognized by the social network system. That’s about 640 million people. But Facebook has recently started cutting back on its use of facial recognition after introducing it more than a decade ago.
In 2019, the company ended its practice of using facial recognition software to identify users’ friends in uploaded photos and automatically suggest that they “tag” them. Facebook was sued in Illinois for the tag suggestion feature.
The decision “is a good example of trying to make product decisions that are good for the user and the business,” said Kristen Martin, professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame. She added that the move also demonstrates the power of regulatory pressure, as the facial recognition system has been under heavy criticism for more than a decade.
Researchers and privacy activists have spent years raising questions about the technology, citing studies that have found it to function unevenly across borders of race, gender, or location. age.
Concerns have also grown over growing awareness of the Chinese government’s extensive CCTV system, especially since it is used in an area home to one of China’s largely Muslim ethnic minority populations.
Some US cities have decided to ban the use of facial recognition software by police and other city departments. In 2019, San Francisco became the first US city to ban the technology, which has long alarmed privacy and civil liberties advocates.
At least seven states and nearly two dozen cities have limited government use of technology amid fears about civil rights violations, racial prejudice and invasion of privacy. Debate over additional bans, limits and reporting requirements has been ongoing in about 20 state capitals this legislative session, according to data compiled by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in May of this year.
Meta’s newly cautious approach to facial recognition follows decisions by other US tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and IBM last year to end or suspend sales of facial recognition software at police, citing concerns over false identifications and amid a broader US awareness of the police and racial injustice.
President Joe Biden’s office of science and technology launched a fact-finding mission in October to examine facial recognition and other biometric tools used to identify people or assess their emotional or mental states and character.
EU regulators and lawmakers have also taken action to prevent law enforcement from scanning facial features in public spaces, as part of broader efforts to regulate riskier applications of artificial intelligence. .
Facebook’s facial analysis practices also contributed to the $ 5 billion fine and privacy restrictions imposed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019. Facebook’s settlement with the FTC after an investigation The agency’s year included a promise to require a “clear and visible” notice before photos and videos of people. have been subjected to facial recognition technology.
– The Associated Press