Ryan Mac, Buzzfeed News:
During a scheduled companywide meeting, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of augmented and virtual reality, told employees that the company is currently assessing whether or not it has the legal capacity to offer facial recognition on devices that are reportedly set to launch later this year. Nothing had been decided, he said, and he noted that current state laws may make it impossible for Facebook to offer people the ability to search for others based on pictures of their face.
“Face 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 said in response to an employee question about whether people would be able to “mark their faces as unsearchable” when smart glasses become a prevalent technology. The unnamed worker specifically highlighted fears about the potential for “real-world harm,” including “stalkers.”
Andrew Bosworth confirmed the report on Twitter with an unsurprisingly defensive tone:
We’ve been open about our efforts to build AR glasses and are still in the early stages. 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.
In our meeting today I specifically said the future product would be fine without it but there were some nice use cases if it could be done in a way the public and regulators were comfortable with.
Anyone who thinks for even a second about the negative consequences about a feature like this knows that there is absolutely no circumstance in which this is an open-ended “discussion”, as Bosworth seems to think. Face blindness is certainly real, and we must be compassionate to those who live with it, but adding a technology layer from one of the world’s most privacy-hostile companies is not a solution. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen.