Speaking to CNBC at the Web Summit tech conference, Garry Kasparov, a former chess champion, has said Facebook’s decision to axe facial recognition technology is stupid. Kasparov, who is now a vocal opponent of repressive governments, said it’s shocking that companies in America and Europe are being forced follow regulations that make them abandon new features for their products and services.
CNBC quotes Kasparov as saying:
“It’s bowing to this public outrage. Personally, I think it’s stupid for a simple reason: Facebook can shut it down, the Chinese will not. Any technological feature that’s available, for me, it doesn’t make any sense to block it. It’s insane to think that in the era of global internet, you can actually start forcing companies in America or in Europe to follow these rules and to abandon new features.”
Facebook has a long history of strong-arming its users into adopting new features they’re not very comfortable with; it’s facial recognition system was one such feature. It was introduced several years ago and while people were notified, it’s not very easy to disable if you change your mind and people may have even forgotten that they’d allowed it to run on their profile in the first place.
The feature does have some nice features which will be missed though, for example, it enabled better automatic alt text description to be applied to images for people who are blind or partially sighted. Since disabling facial recognition, Facebook has asked users to write their own alt text descriptions to assist those who can’t see very well.
Additionally, the facial recognition feature was used to notify users if their picture was uploaded to Facebook without their permission. This feature probably came in handy in quite a number of cases where photos were being used maliciously but now that it has been disabled bad actors can get away more with misusing photos and videos.