Facebook is shutting down its facial recognition system


FILE – This March 29, 2018, file photo shows the Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York’s Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Facebook will be shutting down its Face Recognition system as part of a company-wide effort to limit the use of facial recognition in products.

Metta, Facebook’s new parent company, says more than one-third of its daily active users have opted in to facial recognition settings. As a result of the change, more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates will be deleted. 

“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, Jerome Pesenti, VP of Artificial Intelligence said in a press release. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

The news comes as Facebook battles perhaps its biggest public relations crisis to date after leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that it has known about the harms its products cause and often did little or nothing to mitigate them.

Concerns have also grown due to an increase in awareness of the Chinese government’s extensive video surveillance system, especially as it’s been employed in a region home to one of China’s largely Muslim ethnic minority populations.

Some U.S. cities have moved to ban the use of facial recognition software by police and other municipal departments including San Francisco, which in 2019, became the first U.S. city to outlaw the technology.

At least seven states and nearly two dozen cities have limited government use of the technology amid fears over civil rights violations, racial bias and invasion of privacy.

Facebook’s face-scanning practices also contributed to the $5 billion fine and privacy restrictions imposed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019. Facebook’s settlement with the FTC after the agency’s yearlong investigation included a promise to require “clear and conspicuous” notice before people’s photos and videos were subjected to facial recognition technology.

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