Meta made a surprise move this week by announcing it was abandoning the facial-recognition based tag suggestions feature for photos in Facebook, and deleting the face data of more than 1 billion users.
Why? If you believe Meta, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth, as the Guardian reported:
[Meta’s vice-president of artificial intelligence Jerome Pesenti said] while facial recognition technology is a powerful tool to verify identity, it needs strong privacy and transparency controls to let people limit how their faces are used. He noted there were “many concerns” about the place of facial recognition technology in society, with regulators still playing catch up.
“Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate,” he said.
But there’s no doubt it’s a quick, relatively painless PR win for Meta too, keeping up the momentum in helping turn around public perception of the company in the wake of the Facebook Files and the Facebook Papers. Revelations from Frances Haugen’s leaks kept coming this week (see the Meta news section below) but they certainly made less of an impact than they previously did, and ‘good news’ stories like a row-back on facial recognition is part of the reason.
But keep an eye on Meta and facial recognition. The company isn’t abandoning it altogether. If you’re wary about the technology, there’s wiggle room for it to re-emerge in future products, as Vox points out
And as BuzzFeed News explains
, in the metaverse of the future, “Meta will have the capacity to create identification and surveillance systems that are at least as powerful as the system it’s putting out to pasture.”