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Facebook to shutter its facial recognition system, citing ‘societal – USA Today

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Facebook is shutting down its facial recognition program and deleting more than 1 billion users’ faceprints, a company official said Tuesday.

The move means more than one-third of Facebook’s daily active users – about 640 million people – who have opted into the social network’s facial recognition option no longer will be automatically recognized in photos and videos, said Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Meta, the newly named parent company of Facebook, in a blog post.

Also affected: Facebook’s automatic alt text system, which uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence to give those who are blind or visually impaired descriptions of images that let them know when they or a friend are in an image.

Facebook is taking this action, Pesenti said, because “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.”

In addition to societal concerns about how facial recognition may be used, “regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” he said. “Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

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Consumer privacy groups considered Facebook’s decision on Tuesday a good one for users.

“It is welcome news that Facebook is not only shutting down facial recognition on its platform, but is also deleting the face scan data that it improperly obtained from more than a billion users,” Electronic Privacy Information Center president and executive director Alan Butler said in a statement to USA TODAY. “For far too long Internet users have suffered personal data abuses at the whims of Facebook and other platforms.”

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Facebook’s action comes just days after CEO Mark Zuckerberg changed the parent company’s name to Meta as part of its strategy to focus on the metaverse.

“The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the metaverse,” he said.

It comes amid continued criticism among politicians and in the media after leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen – who last week testified before British Parliament – revealed the company knew about harms caused by Facebook and Instagram but failed to take action.

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Facial recognition technology has become part of personal technology in the last several years with Apple letting iPhone X owners unlock their smartphones by using their faces in 2017. Samsung added facial recognition on its Galaxy Note S8 that year too.

Some states and cities have banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and other law enforcement. California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 issued a three-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition in police body cameras, following similar actions in New Hampshire and Oregon.

Facebook’s move comes after other tech giants including Amazon, Microsoft and IBM paused or ended their sales of facial recognition software to police, amid concerns about misidentification of people, particularly minorities, with facial recognition.

For years, Facebook had taken criticism for its use of facial recognition.

Over the past decade, consumer watchdog groups have filed complaints about the network’s collection of biometric data with the Federal Trade Commission.

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The most recent complaint came just months after the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which as many as 87 million people may have had their data improperly shared by that political targeting firm.

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Subsequently, the company in 2019 ended the automatic feature of identifying friends in photos and suggesting users tag them.

EPIC, one of the consumer privacy groups, called for Facebook to end its facial recognition program in 2011, Butler noted. ”

“So it is good and right for Facebook to make this change, but we should not be reliant on the voluntary actions of large Internet firms to ensure that user privacy is protected,” he said. “We need comprehensive data protection regulations in the United States and we need a federal Data Protection Authority to enforce them.”

Consumer Reports senior policy analyst Maureen Mahoney echoed the need for “comprehensive federal privacy protections,” in a statement. The organization had investigated Facebook’s facial recognition settings in 2019 and found some users could not opt out of the feature.

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Those findings were cited in the FTC’s $5 billion fine of Facebook for privacy violations, issued in July 2019.

“We commend Facebook’s decision to shut down its facial recognition program, especially given the company’s history of misleading consumers over the use of the technology,” Mahoney said.

In addition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation tweeted: “Facebook has announced they will be deleting over a billion face recognition templates as they shut down their entire face recognition system. This is great news for Facebook users, and for the global movement pushing back on this technology.”

Facebook has announced they will be deleting over a billion face recognition templates as they shut down their entire face recognition system. This is great news for Facebook users, and for the global movement pushing back on this technology. https://t.co/0ErdCBhkCT

— EFF (@EFF) November 2, 2021

Still, Facebook did not commit to dropping future plans for facial recognition uses.

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“Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation,” Pesenti said, adding that the company will continue working on the technologies and with experts.

“Every new technology brings with it potential for both benefit and concern, and we want to find the right balance,” he said. “In the case of facial recognition, its long-term role in society needs to be debated in the open, and among those who will be most impacted by it. We will continue engaging in that conversation and working with the civil society groups and regulators who are leading this discussion.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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