Facebook Exiting The Facial Recognition Game

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By CultureBanx Team

  • Facebook is pulling the plug on its facial recognition program by deleting more than 1B people’s individual templates
  • Some facial recognition systems would have an error rate of 34.7% for dark-skin women

Meta (FB -1.56%), the company formerly known as Facebook is pulling the plug on its facial recognition program. The company is planning to delete more than one billion people’s individual facial recognition templates, and will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos as a result of this change, according to its own post. The use of facial recognition technology has a disparate impact on people of color, disenfranchising a group who already face inequality, and Facebook seems to be acknowledging this inherent harm.

Why This Matters: Meta seems to always be embroiled in corporate drama and with intense scrutiny. When you add that to the growing concern from users and regulators that facial recognition space remains complicated, an exit makes sense. More than 600 million daily active users on Facebook had opted into the use of the face recognition technology.

Research shows commercial artificial intelligence systems tend to have higher error rates for women and Black people. Some facial recognition systems would only confuse light-skin men 0.8% of the time and would have an error rate of 34.7% for dark-skin women. Just imagine surveillance being used with these flawed algorithms. A 2018 IDC report noted it expects worldwide spending on cognitive and AI systems to reach $77.6 billion in 2022.

“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,” the company wrote in a blog.

Let’s not forget that Facebook’s push into the facial recognition space came in 2012 with its acquisition of Israeli start-up Face.com, and their team of developers focused on facial recognition for mobile apps for reportedly under $100 million. Fast forward to 2020, Facebook agreed to settle a lawsuit for $650 million for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Essentially, Meta was collecting and storing biometric data without first getting user consent. Transparency is not necessarily something the company is known for upholding.

Other tech companies including Microsoft (MSFT +1.23%) and Google (GOOG -0.72%) have sounded the alarm on just how harmful artificial intelligence can be for investors and brands alike. A.I. is still the most disputed part of technology and is becoming increasingly more commonplace as companies look to incorporate it across their platforms.

What’s Next: Facebook services that rely on the face recognition systems will be removed over the coming weeks. However, the company will still consider facial recognition technology for instances where people need to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation.

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CultureBanx Team

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