Restrained by European authorities, Facebook announced just a year ago that it would stop scanning users’ photos and videos using facial recognition. Now, the same authorities are justifying the reintroduction of the same technologies in an AI-assisted version.
After promising last year that it would delete the biometric data of more than 1 billion users while abandoning the social network’s use of facial recognition technologies, Meta is now returning to more “lucrative” thinking, announcing that it will scan the faces of romantic daters brokered through the Facebook Dating service using a new AI-assisted system. All for a trivial purpose: validating the age passed when a user registers for an account.
Under the original formula, to access Facebook Dating you didn’t have to make a separate account, go through extensive verification, or even install a new app on your phone. Everything happens on the Facebook website or in the app you already have. But the two profiles are separated by the content that’s available to each. Facebook says you can’t “wake up” with a Dating profile, so you’ll have to make one manually. You can choose which photos appear on your Dating profile, you can choose what information about you appears publicly, and whether to integrate your interests such as events you go to or groups you belong to from Facebook. In fact, there are even dedicated features where you can meet people who go to the same events or belong to the same groups as you.
The problem is that with this relaxed approach, Facebook Dating accounts have fallen through the same “holes in the fence” as the rest of Facebook accounts, the long list of duplicate accounts, or registered for SPAM, getting an extension with accounts used by underage users looking for “new experiences”. In the inevitable scandal that followed, the Meta administrator was accused of neglecting underage users by omitting an effective age-based eligibility validation system, with dating accounts only able to be registered based on voluntarily declared age.
Attempting to correct this oversight, Meta is resorting to the very invasive facial recognition technologies it was forced to abandon last year, albeit used on a small scale.
According to Meta, not everyone has the means to upload a copy of their ID card, with facial scanning being a convenient alternative. To avoid suspicion as much as possible, Meta uses the services of partner Yoti.
The good news is that the age of Facebook Dating account applicants will be able to be verified with 98% accuracy. The less good news is that the facial signatures thus obtained end up with a third party company in the US, which will process this data without any misuse being directly attributable to the Meta client.