Meta to Halt Use of Facial Recognition Technology on Facebook

It is still exploring ways to incorporate it into the metaverse

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Meta is taking the facial recognition out of Facebook.

The company said last week that it will shut down the facial recognition system on Facebook as part of an overall initiative to limit the use of the technology in its products.

However, facial recognition is still in play as the company moves into the metaverse, with policy communications manager Jason Grosse telling Rebecca Heilweil of Recode last week that Meta is exploring ways to incorporate biometrics into its metaverse efforts and keeping DeepFace, the algorithm that powers its photo tagging feature.

Grosse told Heilweil, “We believe this technology has the potential to enable positive use cases in the future that maintain privacy, control and transparency, and it’s an approach we’ll continue to explore as we consider how our future computing platforms and devices can best serve people’s needs. For any potential future applications of technologies like this, we’ll continue to be public about intended use, how people can have control over these systems and their personal data and how we’re living up to our responsible innovation framework.”

Meta said in a blog post last week that the move represents one of the largest shifts in usage in the history of facial recognition technology, adding that more than one-third of Facebook’s daily active users opted in to the setting, and the change will result in the deletion of facial recognition templates for more than 1 billion people.

As a result of the upcoming change, people’s faces will no longer be automatically recognized in Memories, photos or videos, and users will no longer be able to turn on facial recognition for suggested tagging or see suggested tags with their name in photos or videos they may appear in. Manual tagging will still be supported.

Automatic Alt Text technology, which is used to create image descriptions for people who are blind or visually impaired, will still be able to recognize how many people are in a photo, but will no longer identify individual people via facial recognition.

There will be no changes for Facebook users who never opted in to facial recognition.

Meta vice president of artificial intelligence Jerome Pesenti wrote in the blog post, “Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity, or to prevent fraud and impersonation. We believe facial recognition can help for products like these with privacy, transparency and control in place, so you decide if and how your face is used. We will continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts.”

He added, “But the many specific instances where facial recognition can be helpful need to be weighed against growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole. 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. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”