So you must be seeing the viral “10 Year Challenge” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Celebrities, friends, acquaintances are sharing a side by side photo comparison of them now (2019) and ten years ago. While there were some hilarious excerpts, mostly people used it to compare themselves in terms of age, “glow up”, etc to themselves 10 years ago.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#10yearchallenge. I never realized how differently I hold my hand now.

A post shared by Ellen (@theellenshow) on

Harmless fun, right?

Well maybe it isn’t. Some news has cropped up and a few analysts have commented that there’s more to the challenge. Allegedly, Facebook with the help of viral challenge is harvesting data to train its biometrics technology.

2018 was a year full of controversies for the social media giant. It looks like that 2019 is no better. With the past data breaches and hack attack, Facebook really ought to improve its market image. Because of a potential scandal, the team needs to be extra careful when it comes to anything to do with sensitive data.

According to several critics, with the help of side by side images of people now and 10 years back, Facebook has hit a goldmine. It has an opportunity to effectively train technology with the help of machine learning.

 

How can Facebook use the data?

A human face has several hundred markers or points which can be identified by a machine. Throughout year, these markers or points change place, orientation or attributes affected by age. Nature follows a logic when this happens. By studying thousands of side-by-side pictures of millions of individuals, machines can be trained to understand how age progression effects faces and may give an opportunity to guess ages with precision. The application of such phenomenon can be positive or nefarious. Can Facebook be trusted with this?

This whole conversation after an OP-ED was published in Wired by Katie O’Neill and since then picked up by different news outlets and columnists who are giving their two cents on this.

Facebook has denied any involvement in misuse of data or data mining but seeing the past track record who is to believe them? It’s safe to say that right now it has more critics than admirers.

Game of Faces

It is not a secret that Facebook has been closely working in face recognition technology. It started by introducing the option of “tagging” friends or family in their photos. Then recently it went one step ahead by introducing the concept of automatically tagging a person in photos which Facebook may “think” its theirs. What is the next step now? Is it using the #10YearsChallenge to understand age progression?

The use of biometrics has become quite common now. Industries worldwide are moving to automating authentication at a rapid pace. That’s face biometrics coming into play. Especially, considering the sophistication of technology law enforcement and defense is also adopting it.  Studies suggest that an average New Yorker is caught more than 75 times on CCTV cameras in a day. This number for a Londoner is more than 300 times!

Considering these numbers, and changing norms, the concerns from Facebook’s critics do hold some weight. Especially due to past controversies. Is it only a meme or there’s something more to it? 

 

We are still to find out.

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