Facebook announces closure of facial recognition system

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FacebookInc announced on Tuesday that it was shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos, citing the company’s growing concerns over the use of the technology.

“Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” wrote Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook, in a blog post. “Amid this continuing uncertainty, we believe it is appropriate to limit the use of facial recognition to a small set of use cases.”

The removal of facial recognition by the world’s largest social media platform comes as the tech industry has faced a toll in recent years over the ethics of using technology.

Critics say facial recognition technology – which is popular among retailers, hospitals and other businesses for security purposes – could compromise privacy, target marginalized groups and standardize intrusive surveillance.

IBM has permanently halted sales of facial recognition products, and Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc have indefinitely suspended sales to the police.

The news also comes as Facebook has come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over user safety and a wide range of abuse on its platforms.

The company, which last week rebranded itself as Meta Platforms Inc, said more than a third of daily active Facebook users have opted for the facial recognition setting on the social media site, and the change will remove now the “facial recognition models” of over 1 billion people.

The removal will take place worldwide and is expected to be completed by December, a Facebook spokesperson said.

Privacy and digital rights groups have welcomed the move.

Alan Butler, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “For too long Internet users have suffered personal data abuse at the whim of Facebook and other platforms.

EPIC first called for an end to this program in 2011, ”although it said comprehensive data protection regulations were still needed in the United States.

Adam Schwartz, senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that while Facebook’s action comes after moves by other tech companies, it could mark a “notable moment in the nation’s denial of facial recognition.”

Facebook added that its automatic alt-text tool, which creates image descriptions for the visually impaired, will no longer include the names of recognized people in photos after removing facial recognition, but will function otherwise as normal.

Facebook has not ruled out using facial recognition technology in other products, saying it still sees it as a “powerful tool” for identity verification, for example.

The company’s facial recognition software has long come under intense scrutiny. The United States Federal Trade Commission included it among the concerns when it fined Facebook $ 5 billion to settle privacy complaints in 2019.

A judge this year approved Facebook’s $ 650 million class-action settlement in Illinois over allegations it collected and stored user biometric data without their consent.

(REUTERS)

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