Facebook To Shut Down Its Facial Recognition System. Here's What It Means

Facebook said this change is going to to impact the Automatic Alt Text (AAT), which ‘creates image descriptions for visually-impaired people’.

Facebook is shutting down its face-recognition system and will subsequently delete the faceprints of over 1 billion people. This means that people will not be automatically recognised in the pictures and videos on the social media platform. The move comes amid growing concern about the face recognition technology's breach of privacy, triggering safety concerns.

The social media giant said that the change is going to have an impact on the Automatic Alt Text (AAT), which 'creates image descriptions for visually-impaired people'. "After this change, AAT descriptions will no longer include the names of people recognized in photos but will function normally otherwise," Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for Facebook's new parent company, Meta, wrote on Tuesday.

We need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules, Pesenti added.

"This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology's history," he said.

Pesenti further said that the company was trying to weigh the positive use cases for the technology "against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules."

In the coming weeks, over a billion people's individual facial recognition templates will be deleted, he said.

Last week, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg announced the company will change its name to Meta, saying the move reflects the fact the company is now much broader than just the social media platform (which will still be called Facebook).

The rebrand follows several months of intensifying discourse by Zuckerberg and the company more broadly on the metaverse – the idea of integrating real and digital worlds ever more seamlessly, using technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), The Conersation reported.

While announcing the rebranding of Facbook's parent company, Zuckerberg said he hoped the 'metaverse will be a new ecosystem that will create millions of jobs for content creators'.

Also Read: Explained: Why Meta Is Facebook's New Name

Facebook's rebranding is being seen as the culmination of seven years of corporate acquisitions, investments and research that kicked off with Facebook's acquisition of VR headset company Oculus for US$2 billion in 2014. According to reports, Oculus had risen to prominence with a lucrative Kickstarter campaign, and many of its backers were angry that their support for the "future of gaming" had been co-opted by Silicon Valley.

However, Facebook has lately been embroiled in controversy for apparently doing less on the front of misinformation and hate speech. Leaked internal documents at Facebook even showed its 'celebrations of violence' in India, the company's biggest market, news agency PTI reported. Researchers at Facebook have also pointed out that there are groups and pages "replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content" on its platform.

Clarifying its position, Facebook said prevalence of hate speech had slumped by 50% over the last three years on its platform. Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen said that "a narrative that the technology we use to fight hate speech is inadequate and that we deliberately misrepresent our progress" was false.

"We don't want to see hate on our platform, nor do our users or advertisers, and we are transparent about our work to remove it," Rosen wrote. "What these documents demonstrate is that our integrity work is a multi-year journey. While we will never be perfect, our teams continually work to develop our systems, identify issues and build solutions," he said.

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