Facebook is shutting down one of its most-used technologies and deleting its massive database of face recognition templates.
Earlier this week, Facebook announced it’s shutting down its photo-tagging face recognition program – an AI system that has been a core feature of the social media platform for years – and also deleting more than a billion “faceprints” of users.
In a blog post, Facebook’s VP of artificial intelligence, Jerome Pesenti, explained that the company needs to “weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.”
Although the photo tagging facial recognition system was introduced as a default feature that users did not have to agree to opt into, Presenti said that more than a third of its daily active users have “opted in” to the Face Recognition setting and that they will now “no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and we will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them.”
As part of the change, more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates will also be deleted from the company’s data systems.
Facebook first introduced the feature in 2010 and started to automatically detect people who are present in a photo, based on previous photo tags.
The system automatically suggested the people be tagged and even began notifying users when someone uploaded a photo in which they appeared but did not tag them on it. The photo-tagging feature grew throughout the years to be one of the most recognizable ones on the platform.
It even became a core security feature when the platform prompted users to recognize random friends’ photos when they logged onto the platform from unusual devices.
The program was also used for other practical uses, including its automatic alt text system to help visually impaired people by describing images of friends.
The company says that it is still working on developing other facial recognition technologies with expert guidance. “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,” Pesenti said.
“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.”