Speed Reads

'many concerns'

Facebook to shut down facial recognition system, delete templates for more than 1 billion people

Facebook is closing the book on its facial recognition system due to "growing concerns" about the technology's use. 

The social media company announced Tuesday that over the coming weeks, it will shut down its facial recognition system, which is used to recognize people in photos and videos automatically. The more than a third of Facebook's daily users who opted into this system, which Facebook introduced in 2010, will soon "no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and we will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them," said Meta's vice president of artificial intelligence, Jerome Pesenti. The company will therefore be deleting the facial recognition templates of over a billion people, per the announcement. 

As for why, Pesenti explained "there are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use," so "amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate." Pesenti, though, pointed to instances in which the technology can be useful, including to help users gain access to locked accounts and prevent fraud.

Facebook's facial recognition system has for years sparked privacy concerns, and the decision comes as the company faces a major public relations crisis after a whistleblower accused of it putting profits over the safety of its users. Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, praised Facebook's announcement on Tuesday, telling The New York Times, "Facebook getting out of the face recognition business is a pivotal moment in the growing national discomfort with this technology. Corporate use of face surveillance is very dangerous to people's privacy."