Facebook Inc. on Tuesday announced it is shutting down its facial recognition system that identifies users in videos and photos, while claiming it will delete “facial recognition templates” of more than 1 billion people.
“Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook, wrote in a blog post. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”
Facebook, whose parent company rebranded itself to Meta Platforms Inc., added that about one-third of all Facebook users have signed up for the face recognition setting. The system was set up about a decade ago, initially designed to keep Facebook users engaged with the platform.
The feature, introduced in December 2010, allowed users to save time by automatically identifying them in photos. It also automatically identified individuals who appeared in others’ digital photo albums and allowed users to “tag” them, which would link their Facebook accounts to a portion of the image.
But over the years, the system has fueled privacy concerns, including instances where individuals were falsely identified, as well as lawsuits. Facebook in recent months has also faced unprecedented scrutiny from various lawmakers and regulators over its other practices.
Inside China, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) employs a vast surveillance network that employs facial recognition capabilities to track dissidents, including adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline that has been subject to a decades-long campaign of terror and persecution at the hands of the CCP.
In the United States, some municipalities have banned the usage of facial recognition software amid concerns of overreach and mistaken arrests. Privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have raised red flags about the software for years.
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