There is a new meme going around called the “10 Year Challenge”, where people across social media post pictures comparing how they’ve aged in 10 years. It’s a cute trend. Some people have changed drastically while others haven’t changed a bit. While it’s fun and interesting for your friends and family to see how you’ve aged, it’s also just as interesting for facial recognition algorithms. Some might immediately jump to a negative conclusion when they hear “facial recognition” but it can also be a positive thing.

As people put their social media profile pictures side by side, it makes it so much easier for algorithms to take those images and begin comparisons and learn how people change as they age. Most of the pictures are already available on social media but it’s quicker to learn when all the information you need is handed to you on a silver platter instead of hidden around like a needle in a haystack. Everything is neatly organized in a 10 year span, nicely tagged, and matched together.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. With trained facial recognition, it can better learn how people age throughout the years. Children who were reported missing years ago could have higher chances of being recognized with updated pictures of how they might look now since they’ve aged from their last photo. In fact, the police of New Delhi stated that they tracked down almost 3000 missing children due to facial recognition.

Unfortunately, the technology isn’t completely being used for good. Companies such as Amazon have been selling their facial-recognition services to law enforcement and government agencies. You might think, isn’t that a good thing? It’ll help them track criminals easily and keep people safe. But that just means innocent people can be tracked just as easily as criminals. Anyone that the police considers a nuisance, legally or illegally, can be tracked and dealt with. And with improved algorithms, it’ll only become easier for them.

Technology will only continue to find subtle ways to gather data in direct or indirect ways. It doesn’t mean we have to abolish using social media altogether. We just need to become educated on what the possible implications are in participating and then be aware of whether you should take part or not.

Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash

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