Facebook on Tuesday (local time) announced that it plans to shut down its decade-old facial recognition system this month. Jerome Pesenti, Vice President of Artificial Intelligence at Meta, Facebook’s newly named parent company, said in a blog post, “We will shut down the Face Recognition system on Facebook as part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in our products. As part of this change, people who have opted for our Face Recognition setting will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and we will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them.” Face Recognition was introduced by Facebook in the year 2010. Pesenti said that new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern, and the company wants to find the right balance. “In the case of facial recognition, its long-term role in society needs to be debated in the open, and among those who will be most impacted by it,” said Pesenti. “We need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules,” added Pesenti.
This change will also impact Automatic Alt Text (AAT), which creates image descriptions for blind and visually-impaired people. After this change, AAT descriptions will no longer include the names of people recognized in photos but will function normally otherwise. This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in technology’s history. More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted for the Face Recognition setting and are able to be recognized. Its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates.
As part of this change, people who have opted for the Face Recognition setting will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and Facebook will delete the facial recognition template used to identify them As per Pesenti, this will lead to a number of changes: Facebook will no longer automatically recognize if people’s faces appear in Memories, photos or videos. People will no longer be able to turn on face recognition for suggested tagging or see a suggested tag with their name in photos and videos they may appear in. After the change, AAT will still be able to recognize how many people are in a photo, but will no longer attempt to identify who each person is using facial recognition.