Facebook has denied that the “10 year challenge” fad sweeping its social media platform is part of an orchestrated effort to collect user data to train facial recognition algorithms.
The social media giant’s remarks came after tech magazine Wired published an article which suggested that then-and-now photos of regular people could be useful to any entity that’s looking to develop facial recognition algorithms related to aging.
“The 10 year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement,” Facebook said in a Twitter reply to Wired editor Nicholas Thompson. “It’s evidence of the fun people have on Facebook, and that’s it.”
The viral meme challenges people to post a photo of themselves from 10 years ago alongside a current photo. Facebook users around the world have obliged, including several celebrities.
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In the Wired article, tech entrepreneur and writer Kate O’Neill mused about whether it was possible that Facebook socially engineered the “10 year challenge” to collect facial data to improve facial recognition algorithms.
In her article, O’Neill sought to examine the plausibility of the conspiracy theory, lay out what Facebook might stand to gain from collecting facial recognition data and discuss the applications of facial recognition technology, which she said range from the beneficial (helping to locate missing children) to the nefarious (police harassment and invasions of privacy).
“Regardless of the origin or intent behind this meme, we must all become savvier about the data we create and share, the access we grant to it, and the implications for its use,” she wrote.
Facebook’s denial of the conspiracy theory comes following a tumultuous year for the tech giant in which it was implicated in various privacy concerns.
Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that Facebook had “made a lot of improvements and changes” in 2018 and would continue working to protect users’ privacy.