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Facebook shuts down facial recognition software

Meta (formerly Facebook) has discontinued its facial recognition feature after a lengthy privacy battle. Meta says the change is being rolled out in the coming weeks

Facebook shuts down facial recognition software

As part of that, the company stops using facial recognition algorithms to distinguish people in photos and videos, and deletes the facial recognition templates it uses for identification.

Meta Vice President of Artificial Intelligence Jerome Bisenti explains that the change is part of a company-wide move to reduce the use of facial recognition in its products.

The move follows a lawsuit accusing Facebook's tagging technology of violating Illinois' biometric privacy law. This led to a $650 million settlement in February.

The company previously restricted facial recognition and made it a subscriberable feature in 2019.

Looking to the future, we continue to see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, Bisenti wrote, citing capabilities such as facial identity verification.

"But the many specific cases in which facial recognition can be useful must be weighed against the growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole," he added.

Bisenti notes that regulators have not settled on a comprehensive privacy regulation for facial recognition. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, the company believes that limiting facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.

More than a third of Facebook's daily active users have chosen to check face recognition, Bisenti says.

More than a billion facial recognition accounts are being deleted as part of the upcoming change. Facebook's automated alt text system for blind users will not name people when analyzing and summarizing media.

It will also no longer suggest people to tag photos or automatically notify users when they appear in photos and videos posted by others.

Participated in the program since 2019

Facebook's decision won't stop independent companies like Clearview AI from using facial recognition algorithms trained with that data.

US law enforcement agencies are working with Clearview AI and other facial recognition surveillance companies.

National or state privacy laws may be needed to restrict wider use of the technology.

By closing a feature she's been using for years, Meta hopes to boost user confidence. This coincides with its willingness to introduce virtual reality and augmented reality technology that may threaten privacy.

The company launched smart glasses with cameras in partnership with Ray-Ban earlier this year. It also gradually unlocks 3D virtual worlds via the Meta VR headset.

These efforts require a level of trust from users and regulators. Giving up facial recognition software is a straightforward way to boost confidence.