#10YearChallenge May Have Been Set Up To Collect Your Data

Facebook could be using its 10 year challenge meme to refine its face recognition AI

It's the simple meme that's taking over your social media feeds: the "10 Year Challenge", where users upload side-by-side photos of themselves from a decade ago and now.

"It would be very, very unlikely for it just to be fun", said David Murakami Wood, the Queen's University-based Canada Research Chair in surveillance studies. With artificial intelligence and facial recognition software going mainstream, companies are investing heavily in emerging technologies.

His views were shared author of Tech Humanist, Kate O'Neill, who, in Twitter elaborated on why the idea makes sense despite Facebook having tons of data on all its users.

"Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (eg, how people are likely to look as they get older)", O'Neill wrote.

"Thanks to this meme, there's now a very large data set of carefully curated photos of people from ~10 years ago and now", O'Neill said in a series of tweets after her initial post went viral.

The "10 Year Challenge" comes about a year after a similar effort from Google, one of Facebook's biggest competitors. "It'd help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart - say 10 years", O'Neill explained.

In a think piece for Wired, O'Neill says that if one was trying to train a face-recognition algorithm to spot human faces (something that police in China and Britain are scarily keen on), the data would be invaluable.

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"We're not being paranoid about this ... we have a lot of evidence that this is being done in all kinds of ways all the time", said Murakami Wood.

She said that while numerous photos used for 10-year posts are already on the internet, the meme would help Facebook's all-knowing AI to grow because unsuspecting users label their snaps with specific dates and locations. It has now all spread around the world, attracting everyone to Bollywood stars to K-Pop groups to the prime minister of Singapore.

Is facial recognition technology in airports accurate?

If so, you are definitely not alone as many folks have done this "challenge". In a Tweet to WIRED magazine, the company wrote "the 10 year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement".

She also acknowledged that user data, especially profile photos from the past and current, is already available on the social network.

However, that still leaves open the possibility of 10 Year Challenge images being used by a Cambridge Analytica-style outsider.

"Like most emerging technology, facial recognition's potential is mostly mundane: age recognition is probably most useful for targeted advertising". He also cautioned against trusting Facebook that the whole meme was merely for fun. Last year, police reported tracking down almost 3,000 kids in New Dehli, India.

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