Is the Facebook 10-year challenge just a creepy facial recognition tool?

The 10-year challenge is the latest viral craze that encourages social media users to post their current profile picture against one from a decade ago.

It’s all a bit of fun, right? Or is it? Given the actions of companies like Facebook in recent times, we’re more inclined to embrace a little cynicism when it comes to these matters.

Kate O’Neill, the tech author and keynote speaker, raises an interesting, yet “semi-sarcastic” point on Twitter. It’s quite the thread and has prompted quite the reaction.

In a follow up article on Wired, O’Neill outlines how a social network could indeed by inclined train a facial recognition algorithm based on age-related characteristics and how people age.

She writes that if Facebook wished to do so, it would “want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.”

O’Neill says that if would also assist Facebook, if users had helpfully labelled “then-and-now” photos. Effectively, that is the dataset social media users have provided the company with by engaging in the 10-year challenge.

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Facebook points out that this is a user-generated meme that it did not start. However, it is unlikely to be too perturbed by users actively providing it with this valuable data. In a statement to Fox News, the company claimed it gains nothing from the challenge.

“This is a user-generated meme that went viral on its own. Facebook did not start this trend, and the meme uses photos that already exist on Facebook. Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009). As a reminder, Facebook users can choose to turn facial recognition on or off at any time.”

O’Neill herself points out that facial recognition tech has countless benefits. She referenced how police in India used the tech to track down 3,000 milling children in four days, last year. However, it’s probably prudent that social media users express a little cynicism when engaging in such memes in future.

Are you more cynical about the motives of social media companies these days? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

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