Facebook will delete facial recognition data of more than one billion people

Meta - the company formerly known as Facebook - will end its facial recognition features. Credit: PA

Facebook will shut down its facial recognition system and delete data of more than one billion people, its parent company Meta has announced.

The social media giant has repeatedly been criticised for breaching users' data and privacy.

More than one-third of Facebook's daily active users - around 640 million people - use the company's facial recognition technology. The move to get rid of the function means that the tech giant will delete the facial recognition data of more than billion people.

It comes after Facebook announced last week that it would be rebranding itself as Meta. The new name is a reflection of the firm's focus on its metaverse project - which aims to create a new online, interactive space using virtual reality (VR) technology.

Facebook introduced facial recognition technology more than 10 years ago, but has recently been scaling it back due to data and privacy concerns.

The app formerly used facial recognition software to identify people in photos uploaded by users. The technology would identify the people in the photos, and suggest that users "tag" them, linking through to the "tagged" person's own profile.

Jerome Pesenti - vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook's newly named parent company Meta - said the change represents one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology's history. In a blog post, Mr Pesenti said that Meta was trying to find a balance between positive uses of facial recognition, with "growing societal concerns" about the technology.

Facebook's co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised for his app breaching user privacy and safety. Credit: PA

Last year, the US state of Illinois sued Facebook for taking users' facial recognition data without their consent, while two years ago, San Francisco outlawed facial recognition technology.

Extra scrutiny has been on the social media company since ex-Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed that the company was ignoring its own research findings that its apps harmed children.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed secrets about Facebook’s operations in the UK Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Several cities across the United States have banned its use by police forces and other government departments.

Former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - who now works for Meta as vice president of global affairs - addressed privacy concerns in a speech earlier today.

The former Liberal Democrats leader told the Web Summit in Lisbon that his company will build privacy and safety features into its metaverse.

"We can work with academics, we can work with lawmakers, we can work with regulators together and collaboratively, to put the guard rails in place before the technology matures", he said.