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The Facebook 10 Year Challenge and Facial Recognition: Was This a Clever Ploy to Get Users to Categorise Data?

Written By Crystal Stranger (CEO of PeaCounts)

Anyone in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) world will tell you one of the most challenging aspects of building a good algorithm is getting data categorised properly. Your data is only as good as the training the machine learning programs receive. Thus it only seems natural that the Facebook “10 Year Challenge” that has been extremely popular over the last few days, could actually be a viral ploy to get users to categorise data showing how their facial features changed over ten years.

This makes the most sense when I think back to the first related post I saw titled, “How Hard Did Ageing Hit You?” The rules of this post were slightly different, you were supposed to post your first profile picture and your most recent. There were different variations going around. I saw another one that said “your first selfie and most recent,” but clearly the profile pic one caught like wild fire as that was easier to accomplish.

I saw this post come up on Friday and looked back to my first profile picture. Then decided against posting, considering I was at a business event. I decided to just be an impartial observer. Over the weekend this morphed from the original challenge to a viral activity of the “Ten Year Challenge”. Most of the messages included some disclaimer of, “not sure why we’re all doing this…”

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I started wondering, why are people doing this? Is it really just a viral movement to show off how little you’ve aged over ten years, or was this part of some bigger plan? The fact that it has spread over a large portion of Facebook over three days makes me think it was started intentionally. On Friday I saw posts from people I know on multiple continents, not sure who they got it from but my guess would be paid influencers.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise that Facebook would spread something like the “10 Year Challenge” in order to gain competitive advantage. Facebook is already facing one class action lawsuit last April over the feature where it asked users to tag others in the App. This feature violated Illinois law related to privacy of biometric features. This lawsuit has not yet been settled.

It all starts to make sense when you think about the value of Facebook’s facial recognition algorithm. With programs like the social credit system in China already in effect it is clear that the best facial recognition program, and data sets related to this, will have immense value in the future.

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Facial recognition and other biometrics are starting to be used for many types of identification. The iPhone X uses facial recognition to open the screen and verify purchases, and other types of digital ID rely on this verification as well.

Biometrics are not as detailed and impenetrable of an identification system as most people imagine. The mapping is done by using a measurement of various points between features and comparing these ratios. Thus it is far less unique than a true random cryptographic key. Plus the reduction in variables makes for fewer combinations that would need to be guessed, leaving an opening for blunt force attacks. While a fully mapped face would be nearly impossible to replicate, there isn’t yet the data storage and transmission capabilities to utilise this method for wide applications.

So what does this mean for real people rather than data scientists? It means that the data Facebook is storing could be used to open your phone, identify you in certain databases, or even used to make purchases.

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal about Facebook selling user data to advertisers without permission, it is reasonable that users should not trust what Facebook does with their data. Lawsuits are still pending to determine Facebook’s responsibility with how they handled data there.

One plus of all these lawsuits is that Facebook has now made it possible for you to opt-out of their facial recognition system. This is at least one way you can feel it is less likely that Facebook is storing or potentially selling your data. Maybe then you can feel comfortable that participating in the “10 Year Challenge” will be just for ego-stroking and not for building tools that will someday monitor and control all our actions.

Crystal Stranger, EA, has more than 15 years of tax and finance experience, is a journalist and speaker on blockchain and crypto technologies since 2014, and author of The Crypto Island Tax Guide. Self-taught, she read every investment book in the library to catapult herself from homeless to millionaire investor in two years.

Applying the same intensity and focus to every interest, Crystal founded PeaCounts, using blockchain and AI technology to revolutionise how workers are paid, eliminate black market labor, and help individuals break the glass ceiling.

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