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Facebook is shutting down its facial recognition system. Experts say to proceed with caution

Meta-Facebook-Ad Targeting
Wilfredo Lee/AP
FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, April 23, 2021, the Facebook app is shown on a smartphone, in Surfside, Fla. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, says it will remove sensitive ad targeting options related to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation beginning on Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Facebook announced earlier this month it is ending its Face Recognition system, which automatically recognizes and identifies people in photos and videos.

David Scuffham, director of information security at Bradley University, said consumers should be conscious about maintaining control over any biometric information.

"It's not like a password where if the password gets out, you can change it, or a credit card number that gets out, you can get a new credit card. You can't change your facial geometry. You can't change your voiceprint. None of that's changeable. So if that gets out, that can be used and abused, and you can't change it," he said.

Illinois internet users are protected by the state's Biometric Information Privacy Law, one of the nation's strongest biometric protection laws. Scuffham said while that's good for consumers, there are still dangers lurking online.

"Facebook has had facial recognition technology and has been keeping track of people's faces for at least a decade now," he said. "And so with this decision, they are planning to delete all that data. They are not getting rid of the technology. Nor have they said what they're planning to do with that technology in the future."

Zach Gorman, chief information officer at Bradley University, said users should still have an expectation of privacy online, but it requires exercising some controls. That includes knowing who your online audience is.

"Not every friend is a friend. We had mentioned once before, in a couple of other venues that if you're walking around in the evenings, you don't necessarily always walk around just by yourself. You lock your doors to your car, your house, that kind of stuff. But we seem to relax those rules a little bit once it comes to the internet, which doesn't make a lot of sense, in my opinion," Gorman said.

He said it's important to know who you're dealing with and think about what you're putting out onto the internet.

Gorman and Scuffham also warn of the proliferation of deepfakes, or media which can reproduce someone's appearance or voice well enough to fool consumers.

"Technology and artificial intelligence is just going to keep getting better every year, it is going to get more and more difficult for us to be able to detect it. They are using AI against AI to do some of the detection," Scuffham said. "But part of it is just going to be we're going to have as humans, we're just going to have to start questioning more. Is this really real?"

Gorman said it also comes back to having a little more media literacy and questioning what you're consuming on the internet rather than accepting it at face valu.

"When it comes to something that would potentially see much more real, a video of somebody that's been posted out there, and then goes viral, and that kind of such, if it doesn't sound right, or shoot, even if it does, but especially if it doesn't, question it, and then go try to find a trusted source," he said.

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