According to a recent story from BuzzFeed News, social media giant Facebook is looking into the possibility of adding facial recognition capabilities to its upcoming smart glasses devices, but is first looking into any legal and privacy issues involved in doing so.
The news comes straight from Facebook Vice President of Augmented and Virtual Reality Andrew Bosworth, who broached the subject at an internal meeting earlier this week. Bosworth noted that though nothing has been decided as of yet, the current legal landscape presents nearly insurmountable obstacles to the company being able to add the technology to their unreleased glasses, and they are at a stage of the process where they are looking into whether or not it can be done.
BuzzFeed reports that the news prompted at least one employee to raise concerns, and notes that a question was asked about whether or not people would have the option of making their faces “unsearchable”, with the same worker reportedly also highlighting the potential for the devices to be used for “real-world harm”.
The question prompted Bosworth to reply that “[f]ace recognition … might be the thorniest issue, where the benefits are so clear, and the risks are so clear, and we don’t know where to balance those things.”
Bosworth also took to Twitter after the BuzzFeed story was published, writing, “Face recognition is a hugely controversial topic and for good reason and I was speaking about was how we are going to have to have a very public discussion about the pros and cons.”
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been on the receiving end of public scrutiny when it comes to the issues of privacy and facial recognition technology. In July of 2020, the company reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against it under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
Though the settlement ended up being for $650 million, the judge noted that this amounted to $150 to $300 per claimant, whereas under BIPA the fine is anywhere between $1,000 and $3,500 per claimant. Ultimately, the money was actually only claimed by a quarter of those who were eligible to do so.
Smart glasses have been on Facebook’s radar for over a year now, and though no official date for their release has been set, they are expected to arrive at some point in 2021.
Source: BuzzFeed News
February 26, 2021 – by Tony Bitzionis