News 20 January 2019

Did Facebook Use The #10YearChallenge To Collect Facial Recognition Data?

20 January 2019

Last week, the #10YearChallenge swept the internet but was the challenge a part of Facebook’s plan to collect data for facial recognition?

The challenge influenced social media users from all over the world to upload photos of themselves from ten years ago and saw a whole heap of celebrities take part including Nicki Minaj, Chance the Rapper and many more.

Facebook is said to have joined in on the action with the popular social media platform asking users ‘How Hard Did Aging Hit You?’, before showing users a current photo of themselves compared to a photo from the past.

While many saw the viral challenge as a playful activity, Kate O’Neil – a writer from Wired – recently wrote a piece questioning its implications.

O’Neil wrote, “Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures.

“It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years,” said O’Neill.

This theory was quickly shut down by some who argued Facebook already has access to photos from several years ago.

Facebook has also responded to claims they used the #10YearChallenge to gain data for facial recognition.

“This is a user-generated meme that went viral on its own”, the company said.

“Facebook did not start this trend, and the meme uses photos that already exist on Facebook. Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009). As a reminder, Facebook users can choose to turn facial recognition on or off at any time.”

Facebook has been using facial recognition technology for the past few years by recognising photos you may be tagged in.

Alvaro Bedoya, a facial recognition expert, said “You can delete cookies. You can change browsers. And you can leave your smartphone at home but you can’t delete your face, and you can’t leave it at home.”

At current, Facebook has said it has no plans to use its facial recognition data away from the platform.