ALARMING: Is “10YearsChallenge” potentially more menacing than just being a trend

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The #10yearschallege is all over social media, people are fondly posting their then and now pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Tweeter showing off their positive transformation over a decade.

Although it was going as smooth and trendy like all the trends on social media become active for some time and then vanish away. Among all this, a technologist and follower of the meme evaluated the trend in her own way and raised the question whether the entire challenge was actually something more sinister and initiated a discussion about the technology in the process.

Author of a book named Tech Humanist, Kate O’Neill went onto theorize that if you were training a facial recognition program on age-related traits, it would be useful to have a large data set taken at a fixed number of years apart.

“Thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large data set of carefully curated photos of people from 10 years ago and now. Is it bad that someone could use it to train a facial recognition algorithm? Not necessarily,” Ms O’Neill said on Twitter, noting that such technology could be used to find missing children.

After her tweet, the whole fun of this new trend followers took a new shape and sometimes haunted the social media users. A number of technology companies, including Facebook and Amazon, have been criticised about the privacy implications of facial recognition technology.

In response to this attention-catching argument Facebook spokesperson released the statement:

“This is a user-generated meme that went viral on its own. Facebook did not start this trend, and the meme uses photos that already exist on Facebook. Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009). As a reminder, Facebook users can choose to turn facial recognition on or off at any time.”

Other social media websites such as Instagram and Twitter has not responded yet.

The most conspicuous negation of Ms O’Neill’s reservation and observations is that Facebook already has a trove of photos of each user over the years, which it does use to develop facial recognition technology.

To this argument that also went on in the comments under the tweet, she said that it is difficult for the company to know exactly when some of the older photos were taken.

“I’m not saying anyone should panic or feel bad. It’s simply worth becoming more mindful of how our data can be used,” she said. “We don’t need to be wary of everything; we just need to think critically, and learn more about the potential our data has at scale.”

While defending her point that the data collected can be used by facial recognition technology can most likely be useful in the advertising industry. In the follow-ups under her tweet she also warned that users should remain vigilant with what they share, regardless of the social platform.

“The broader message, removed from the specifics of any one meme or even anyone social platform, is that humans are the richest data sources for most of the technology emerging in the world. We should know this, and proceed with due diligence and sophistication,” she wrote in an opinion piece for Wired on the meme.

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