Texas Attorney General tells Meta not to remove facial recognition system information

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton demanded that Meta, formerly known as Facebook, preserve data from its facial recognition system amid an ongoing investigation in Texas into the biometric data collection practices of the company. Paxton is pictured speaking to media outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 1, 2021.
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has demanded that Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, preserve its facial recognition data while the state continues to investigate the company.

On Tuesday, Meta announced that it would shut down the facial recognition system soon and remove more than a billion facial prints obtained from users. Paxton, a Republican, launched an investigation into Facebook’s alleged illegal collection of biometric data in June 2020. After the company announced plans to shut down the system, the Texas Attorney General’s office sent a letter to a lawyer Meta representative to demand that related data be retained while the investigation continues.

“It has been brought to our attention that your client, Facebook, Inc. (now known as Meta) will soon be shutting down their facial recognition system on Facebook,” read the letter signed by Assistant Attorney General C Brad Schuelke. “I am writing to you today to confirm that this office’s investigation is ongoing and that your client has an obligation to preserve all sources of discovery and / or evidence relevant to our investigation.”

“Until this matter is fully and definitively resolved, your client should retain and take appropriate safeguards to secure and protect all documents relating to our investigation, including, but not limited to all models. facial recognition for Facebook users in Texas and all source code related to Facebook’s Face Recognition Systems, ”he continues.

Shortly before the letter was sent, Meta’s vice president of artificial intelligence, Jerome Pesenti, explained in a blog post that the shutdown of the system was “part of a company-wide initiative. the company to limit the use of facial recognition in our products “.

Pesenti noted that the move would ensure that those who opted for the system are no longer automatically recognized in photos, while a feature describing images for the visually impaired will also no longer include the names of people recognized on photos. Pictures.

“More than a third of daily active Facebook users have opted for our facial recognition setting and can be recognized, and its removal will result in the removal of over a billion individual facial recognition models,” Pesenti wrote. . “We still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people who need to verify their identity, or to prevent fraud and identity theft.”

“Each new technology brings with it potential that is both beneficial and worrying, and we want to find the right balance,” he added. “In the case of facial recognition, its long-term role in society needs to be debated openly and among those who will be most affected by it.”

Paxton’s investigation into the facial recognition system came after Facebook fell victim to a technology class action lawsuit in Illinois. The company ultimately settled $ 650 million after users alleged their faces were scanned, stored, and used to tag photos on the platform without their consent.

Facebook, Inc., which owns Facebook and several other popular apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, changed its name to Meta Platforms, Inc., last week. Company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said now is the time to “embrace a new corporate brand, to embrace everything we do.”

News week contacted Meta, who declined to comment.

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