The social media giant Facebook announced that they will no longer use the Face Recognition system on their platform and will be deleting over 1 billion people’s facial recognition profiles.

Meta (formerly known as Facebook) artificial intelligence VP Jerome Pesenti calls the change part of a “company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in our products.” The move follows a lawsuit that accused Facebook’s tagging tech of violating Illinois’ biometric privacy law, leading to a $650 million settlement in February. Facebook previously restricted facial recognition to an opt-in feature in 2019.

“Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool,” writes Pesenti in a blog post, citing possibilities like face-based identity verification. “But the many specific instances where facial recognition can be helpful need to be weighed against growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole,” Pesenti notes that regulators haven’t settled on comprehensive privacy regulation for facial recognition. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

Some of the Facebook features that will no longer work as expected include:

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  • Our technology will no longer automatically recognize if people’s faces appear in Memories, photos or videos.
  • People will no longer be able to turn on face recognition for suggested tagging or see a suggested tag with their name in photos and videos they may appear in. We’ll still encourage people to tag posts manually, to help you and your friends know who is in a photo or video. 
  • This change will also impact Automatic Alt Text (AAT), a technology used to create image descriptions for people who are blind or visually impaired. AAT currently identifies people in about 4% of photos. After the change, AAT will still be able to recognize how many people are in a photo, but will no longer attempt to identify who each person is using facial recognition. Otherwise, AAT will continue to function normally, and we’ll work closely with the blind and visually impaired community on technologies to continually improve AAT. You can learn more about what these changes mean for people who use AAT on the Facebook Accessibility page. 
  • If you have opted into our Face Recognition setting, we will delete the template used to identify you. If you have the face recognition setting turned off, there is no template to delete and there will be no change. 
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Facebook says they will be shutting down their Face Recognition system and deleting the user templates in the coming weeks.