Less than a week after Facebook rebranded as Meta it has announced that it is turning off facial recognition on Facebook over ‘growing societal concerns’ and growing regulatory scrutiny. Those who opted into the facial recognition system will no longer be recognised in videos and photos and more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates will be deleted.
The move will also mean that the Automatic Alt Text feature, which creates image descriptions for blind and visually-impaired people, will no longer include names of people it recognises in photos. You may have noticed a pop-up on Facebook letting you know that it’s possible to add alt texts to images; be sure to do this if you want blind and visually impaired people to know what’s going on in the picture.
Aside from the move lowering the quality of alt texts, it will also mean that Facebook will stop offering the feature that notifies you if it detects you in a photo or video someone else posts on the network. People will also stop receiving suggestions on who to tag in photos too. The removal of notifications could be a problem as it makes it harder for users to detect if photos or videos have been uploaded to the site without permission.
The change will come into effect in the coming weeks. Facebook will likely re-enable some of the features in the future when regulators finally catch up with the technology and decide what is and isn’t allowed.