Facebook, a social media giant that recently rebranded as Meta, confirmed plans to completely shut down its facial recognition system by the end of the month and are actively working towards deleting the facial scans of more than 1 billion people.
The drastic measures result from the company’s concerns that Meta may struggle to keep up with regulators. Many governments have not provided clear rules yet, and Facebook likely wants to avoid eventually being under regulatory scrutiny because of the possession of such comprehensive data of templates that could effectively be used to identify people. The Palo Alto-based tech giant also pointed out the growing societal concerns about face recognition technology in general.
Face recognition has been used by the company to analyze photos and videos, and to suggest the identity of the persons seen in the graphics. With this feature rolling out, Facebook users will no longer be recognized in photos and videos as Facebook will delete their facial recognition templates used to identify them.
Meta confirmed that currently, more than a third of Facebook users had opted in for Facebook’s face recognition setting. The templates of all these users will be deleted. And the rest of the users who opted out or never signed up for the Face recognition setting will not see any changes as there are no templates stored for them.
The aggressive move from Meta will lead to more changes in the platform. For example, Facebook will no longer automatically recognize if people’s faces appear in Memories, photos, or videos. Another noticeable difference observed is that users will no longer be able to take advantage of suggested tagging as they won’t be able to turn on the face recognition option. However, social media users will still be able to tag each other on images and videos manually. In fact, manual tagging will be strongly encouraged by Facebook.
Lastly, the change will also impact Automatic Alt Text (AAT). The AAT has proven to be very helpful for visually impaired users as it was creating image descriptions. After the change, AAT will continue to work and will still recognize the number of people in an image or a video but will no longer identify the persons in it.
Facebook’s decision does not mean that the company will not turn facial recognition back on in the future. According to Meta, facial recognition technology is a powerful tool, but they believe that limiting the technology is appropriate amid the currently ongoing uncertainty.