This comes after leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that Facebook has known about the harms its products cause and often did little or nothing to mitigate them.

Mark Zuckerberg speaking at an eventAnthony Quintano/CC-BY-2.0
Atom Facial recognition Wednesday, November 03, 2021 - 12:46

Facebook said it will shut down its face-recognition system and delete the faceprints of more than 1 billion people. This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology's history, said a blog post Tuesday from Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for Facebook's new parent company, Meta. 

More than a third of Facebook's daily active users have opted in to our Face Recognition setting and are able to be recognized, and its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people's individual facial recognition templates. 

He said 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.

Facebook's about-face follows its Thursday announcement that it was renaming itself Meta in order to focus on building technology for what it envisions as the next iteration of the internet -- the metaverse. 

The company is also facing perhaps its biggest public relation 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. 

More than a third of Facebook's daily active users have opted in to have their faces recognized by the social network's system. That's about 640 million people.

But Facebook has recently begun scaling back its use of facial recognition after introducing it more than a decade ago.

The company in 2019 ended its practice of using face recognition software to identify users' friends in uploaded photos and automatically suggesting they tag them. Facebook was sued in Illinois over the tag suggestion feature.

Some US cities have moved to ban the use of facial recognition software by police and other municipal departments. In 2019, San Francisco became the first US city to outlaw the technology, which has long alarmed privacy and civil liberties advocates.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is rebranding itself as Meta in an effort to encompass its virtual-reality vision for the future what Zuckerberg calls the 'metaverse'. However, sceptics had pointed out that it also appears to be an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a leaked document trove so dubbed by a consortium of news organizations. Many of these documents, first described by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, have revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings of the negative and often harmful consequences its algorithms wreaked across the world.

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