In brief: Like all social networks, Facebook has a bot problem. But the company is testing a new feature that uses people’s faces to verify their identities—though it claims the method doesn’t use facial recognition.
Discovered by prolific app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, the feature asks owners of suspected inauthentic accounts to hold their mobiles up, position their faces inside an on-screen circle, and slowly turn their head, thereby confirming they aren't a bot.
Facebook is working on Facial Recognition-based Identity Verification, asking users take selfie looking at different directions pic.twitter.com/w4kZHEpDeG— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) 5 November 2019
Wong posted several screenshots of the selfie-like verification system, which reads: “We need a short video of you turning your head in different directions. This helps us confirm your identity and check you’re a real person.”
This is how Facebook's Facial Recognition-based Identity Verification looks like— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) 5 November 2019
It asks me to look at several directions within the circle
It explicitly states no one else will see the video selfie and will be deleted 30 days after the confirmation pic.twitter.com/296bGRDyYZ
The researcher writes that the tool explicitly states no one else will see the video and that it will be deleted 30 days after the confirmation, though with Facebook’s notorious reputation when it comes to user privacy, some people might be apprehensive about using the feature. The news comes just as the company revealed up to 100 developers may have accessed Groups members' data.
Wong writes that the feature is facial recognition-based, and it certainly appears that way, but Facebook says this isn’t the case. “This test is one of the steps we use,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. “It does not use facial recognition. Instead, it detects motion and whether a face is in the video.”
Facebook also confirmed that only accounts suspected of being fake will be asked to submit a video selfie.
It’s little surprise to see Facebook emphasize that the verification method doesn’t use facial recognition, especially as part of the $5 billion fine it received from the FTC was partially due to its use of the feature. The agency says it failed to provide sufficient information about the recognition tool to around 30 million users.