The idea of challenge #10yearchallenge is simple: you post a current photo and a 2009 photo, to show your followers Twitter, Facebook or Instagram how your appearance has changed in the last ten years. Then businesswoman Kate O’Neill raised a theory: what if this was used to train facial recognition algorithms? What if Facebook was behind it?
O’Neill does not provide any evidence that Facebook is doing this, but his article on Wired ended up viralizing, and the social network decided to respond.
“The 10-year challenge is a user-created meme that started out on its own without our involvement,” the company says in its official Twitter account. “It’s a testament to the fun that people have on Facebook, and that’s all.”
How # 10yearchallenge data could be used
In his article, O’Neill says that this meme is not inherently dangerous, but “the possibility of facial recognition is largely plausible, and indicative of a trend people should know about.” The data would serve to estimate the appearance of people as they age.
Basically, O’Neill says it would be easy to train a facial recognition algorithm using # 10yearchallenge data. To create a database, you would simply gather the posts that use this hashtag, and tag the photos with the year they were taken – the users themselves report this.
Of course, it would be necessary to clean up this database: some people posted the same photo twice (to say they have not changed in those ten years), while others have posted comparisons that indicate deforestation and melting of the polar ice caps. However, this is not exactly a problem – it is a routine practice to train algorithms.
Trust in social networks (and Facebook) has declined
O’Neill does not say that this is happening: she just speculates that this could happen. Still, several people were concerned about that possibility.
It’s a sign that something else has changed in recent years: our reliance on social media has declined, especially on Facebook. In the old days, it would be difficult to see the challenge as anything but a joke. We now know that we are being reviewed and categorized for targeted ads.
In a statement, Facebook says that “users can choose to enable or disable facial recognition at any time.” We teach here how to turn off face recognition on Facebook.