U-turn: Facebook is doing away with the controversial face recognition system and wants to delete vast amounts of data


In the past few years, the network had already scaled back facial recognition, which was introduced more than ten years ago.

(Photo: dpa)

Providence Facebook wants to stop its facial recognition system in the future and delete corresponding data from more than a billion users. It is one of the biggest changes in the handling of facial recognition in the history of technology, wrote Jerome Pesenti, vice president for artificial intelligence at Facebook’s recently renamed parent company Meta, in a blog post. Attempts are made to weigh positive cases in the use of the system “against growing social concerns”, especially since government agencies have not yet established clear rules.

More than a third of the daily active Facebook users have agreed to the terms of use so that their faces can be recognized by the system of the online platform. That’s around 640 million people.

In previous years, the network had already scaled back the technology introduced more than ten years ago. In 2019, the function was abolished with which Facebook friends of users could be identified on uploaded photos and “marked” on an automatic suggestion. Because of the flagging option, Facebook was sued in the US state of Illinois.

With the setting of the function, names are no longer displayed in previous photos, Facebook emphasized. Nothing will change for users who have not activated the function, as no facial recognition data would have to be deleted.

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Facebook’s latest move “is a good example of trying to make product decisions that are good for users and the company,” said Kristen Martin, professor of ethics and technology at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

The U-turn comes at a turbulent time for the online platform. The company only announced on Thursday that it would rename itself to Meta. The name change does not apply to the social network itself. The move should help the company focus on building a technology for the next phase of the Internet: the “Metaverse”, as it was called.

In addition, Facebook is groaning under what is probably its biggest PR crisis to date, after documents pierced by ex-employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen suggested that the company was aware of the harmful effects of its products, especially for young people, but often little or nothing have taken against it.

More: New name, new image? Ten companies that changed their name before Facebook

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