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Facebook, its Facial Recognition System, and Users

The most popular social network made an unusual announcement. Facebook decided to close its facial recognition system amid growing concern from users and regulators. In the near future, Facebook’s parent company Meta will scrap this system on Facebook as part of a company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in its products. Facebook changed its company name to Meta in October.

Meta will delete more than 1 billion people’s individual facial recognition templates, as a result of this change. More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users had opted into the use of this technology according to Meta.

The social network will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos. Meta’s decision, nonetheless, will also impact the automatic alt text technology that the company uses to describe images for people who are blind or visually impaired. Facebook will remove services that rely on face recognition systems over the coming weeks.

Facebook and legal aspects

Meta presented its road map for the creation of a massive virtual world in October. Furthermore, Facebook’s parent company said it will consider facial recognition technology for instances where people need to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation.

The decision to scrap the system on Facebook comes amid a wave of news reports over the past month. Facebook’s former employee Frances Haugen released a trove of internal company documents to news outlets, regulators, and lawmakers.

Documents released by Haugen show that Facebook is aware of many of the harms its apps and services cause but either doesn’t rectify the problems or struggles to address them.

In 2012, Facebook paid millions of dollars to acquire Israeli start-up Face.com. The deal mentioned above came just after the social media giant acquired Instagram.

This year, a federal judge gave final approval to a $650 million Facebook class action privacy settlement. He ordered 1.6 million members of the class in Illinois who submitted claims to be paid “as expeditiously as possible”.

Lastly, Chicago attorney Jay Edelson sued the social media giant in 2015. He argued that the platform’s use of facial recognition tagging was not allowed under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. In fact, the lawsuit claimed that Facebook’s Tag Suggestions tool stored biometric data without users’ consent. In Illinois, it is illegal to store biometric data without users’ approval. The case became a class-action lawsuit several years later in 2018.

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