Facebook was testing out an Augmented Reality app that would let users identify where people at whom they pointed their phone were ‘friends’ with them on the social media platform, and Vice‘s Joseph Cox has now managed to get a close-up look at the system.
Developed between 2015 and 2016 but never released to the public, the app used facial recognition to identify subjects in real time. Images obtained by Motherboard show that if the system was pointed at someone who was ‘friends’ with the user on Facebook, a pop-up message would appear reading, “You are friends.” Otherwise, a message would read, “Unable to recognize :(“.
The app’s existence has previously been reported by Business Insider, and confirmed by Facebook, which responded to press inquiries by stressing that the app was only tested internally, and would only recognize friends who had enabled facial recognition settings.
Today, the app will likely bring to mind Clearview AI, whose controversial biometric app has come under intense scrutiny for applying facial recognition to images collected from the internet and social media apps without subjects’ consent.
For its part, Facebook showed understandable caution in not launching its app for public use. The company had already run afoul of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act in 2015 over its use of facial recognition in tagging photos uploaded to its platform – legal action that would result in a class action payout of $550 million this year.
More recently, Facebook became one of multiple tech companies to tell Clearview AI to stop mining its platform for face images.
March 20, 2020 – by Alex Perala