Just days after rebranding, Facebook announced plans to delete a trove of the most concerning data that the world's largest social network had collected on over a billion people.
Facebook's newly renamed parent company Meta explained in a blog post-Tuesday that it would shut down its facial recognition systems and delete a massive collection of over a billion facial recognition templates used to pair faces with photos and videos. Users who previously opted in will no longer be paired with Facebook in the future.
In 2010, Facebook launched facial recognition to automatically tag photos with names. The feature was enabled by default at launch, and Facebook only made the system explicitly opt-in in 2019, which explains how it accumulated over a billion facial recognition profiles.
Facebook's face recognition system was probably more trouble than it was worth at this point. Many proposals to regulate online privacy in the United States remain speculative, particularly at the federal level, but existing laws can make the use of facial recognition technology more difficult. Among them is the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) of Illinois, which has ensnared some of the biggest names in technology.
Facebook's decision to abandon facial recognition comes on the heels of the company's major rebranding around the metaverse. Concerns about Facebook's privacy and moderation failings have had little impact on its business, but public distrust and looming regulation will accompany the company into its next chapter, rebrand or no rebrand.