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(Pocket-lint) - Facebook has made a somewhat surprising announcement, confirming that it is going to turn off all of the facial recognition software that it has been using as part of its app and website's photo suite. This is the system that recognises who's in your photos as you upload them.

In the process of discontinuing the system, Facebook has again defended it as helpful to the partially sighted or disabled users who might find it challenging to manually tag their friends and loved ones in photos, but also admitted that the pros do not outweigh the cons at the moment.

Its blog post announcing the change confirms that the social media giant acknowledges the many concerns about facial recognition software abounding in society at the moment (not that those concerns are particularly new), explaining that this is partly why it's ending its involvement.

Effectively, if you have opted into using automatic tags at any point, the template being used to identify you will be deleted at the same time as the system is no longer available for anyone to use. This means we can safely estimate that Facebook will be deleting the "face-prints" of hundreds of millions of users.

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It's a bolder step than we're used to from tech giants like Facebook (sorry, Meta) and it's telling that the blog post concludes by reaffirming the potential usefulness of facial recognition in the future, but for now this is a pretty major step that privacy campaigners will likely welcome with open arms.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 3 November 2021.