By techgigant Facebook announced on Tuesday that it was turning off its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos. The social media giant is doing so in response to “growing public concern over the use of such technology.”
When you post a photo or video to Facebook, the platform may use a facial recognition system to find out who is on the shared post. But the company now wants to end this system. “The removal will be rolled out worldwide and is expected to be completed by December,” a spokesperson told the news agency. Reuters.
Danger to privacy
“Regulators are still publishing clear rules for the use of facial recognition,” wrote Jérôme Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook, in a blog post. “Amid this continuing uncertainty, we believe it is appropriate to restrict its use.”
Facebook added that its automatic alt text tool, which creates image descriptions for the visually impaired, will no longer contain the names of recognized people in photos after removing facial recognition, but otherwise the tool will function normally.
Facebook’s decision comes as no total surprise. Governments around the world are increasingly putting pressure on tech giants to use their technology ethically. A while ago it became clear just how big the impact Instagram can be on the mental well-being of young people. In addition, the company has recently experienced difficult times after whistleblower Frances Haugen said Facebook is deliberately tweaking its algorithms to maximize profits.
Critics say facial recognition technology could compromise privacy, affect marginalized groups and standardize intrusive surveillance. Facebook is not the first company to take a step back in this area. IBM has permanently stopped sales of facial recognition products, and Microsoft and Amazon.com have indefinitely suspended sales of these technologies to law enforcement.
Software has been under fire for some time
The company’s facial recognition software has been the subject of criticism for some time in the United States (US). The United States Federal Trade Commission listed it as a concern when it fined Facebook $ 5 billion in 2019 for privacy complaints. A judge this year approved Facebook’s $ 650 million class-action settlement in Illinois over allegations it collected and stored users’ biometrics without the required consent.
Privacy and digital rights groups hail Facebook’s decision. “For too long, Internet users have been victims of the misuse of personal information by Facebook and other companies,” Alan Butler, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said in a statement. Reuters.
However, Facebook does not rule out the use of facial recognition technology in other products. “It remains a powerful tool for identity verification, for example,” the company said.
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