Could Facebook Be Using Its #10YearChallenge Meme to Refine Facial Recognition Algorithms?

Is Facebook's '10-Year Challenge' meme a creepy facial recognition gambit?

The 10 year challenge: is there a sinister reason behind viral photo trend?

Instagram and Twitter have not yet responded to a request for comment from Fox News.

"Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram".

Author Kate O'Neill addressed the potential privacy concerns in a Wire op-ed Wednesday, pointing out that seemingly harmless games and hashtags can generate searchable, neatly packaged information that could be used as training data for the algorithms powering artificial intelligence and facial recognition.

Other users have also dismissed the theory saying Facebook and other social media channels already had access to those photos if they needed them, including through time-stamped old profile pictures.

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The social media giant has since denied the theory replying to a tweet sharing O'Neill's article and insisted Facebook had nothing to do with the meme.

Andrew Clement, a surveillance and privacy researcher at the University of Toronto, called it "highly plausible" that Facebook or some outside entity is using the images to calibrate facial recognition technology. It's simply worth becoming more mindful of how our data can be used.

In other words, it would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully-labeled set of then-and-now photos. "It'd help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart - say 10 years", O'Neill explained. "What's more, the photo posting date and even EXIF data wouldn't always be reliable for when the pic was actually taken", she added.

"The 10-year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement", it wrote on Twitter. "Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009)".

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Another reason to think that this viral challenge is not something a company devised to gather user data is because real age progression software already exists.

"Vast quantities of images cannot only be used to train a neural network to recognize specific individuals, but taken 10 years apart (could) obtain an insight onto how aging processes work", said Marina Gavrilova, head of the University of Calgary's Biometric Technologies Lab.

That's not to say that there's something underhand or calculated about the spread of the 10 year challenge. According to Naimal Khan, companies like Facebook would not need to rely on the "ad hoc" data of the 10 Year Challenge when they could "automatically crawl through your photo archive to do it in a more rigorous manner".

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