Facebook shuts down automatic face recognition, to delete more than a billion saved faces

Facebook says that it needs to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns.

Highlights
  • Facebook shuts down automatic face recognition technology.
  • The company says that it will no longer automatically detect people in photos and videos.
  • Facebook will delete more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates.

In a surprising turn of events, Facebook has shut down its automatic face tagging system that is powered by facial recognition. The system detects who is in photos based on the faces it sees. What this means is that people who have opted in for the face tagging system will no longer be automatically recognised in photos and videos. There’s no way to turn it on again. What’s more interesting is that Facebook will delete more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates. Facebook says that it is doing because “we need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules“.

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“This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in technology’s history. More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted in to our Face Recognition setting and are able to be recognized, and its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates,” said Facebook in a statement. The social media giant is asking its users to continue tagging posts manually but the automatic process will no longer happen. Furthermore, the Automatic Alt Text that creates image descriptions for blind people will no longer include the names of people in the recognised photos.

Facebook

These changes will happen “in the coming weeks”. Facebook says it still sees facial recognition technology as a powerful tool and can help for products like privacy, transparency and control in place and is allowing users to decide how their face is being used. It said the company will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.