The social media app Facebook experimented with a camera app that could identify people using Facebook’s facial-recognition tech. The app was reportedly tested internally with Facebook employees between 2015 and 2016 but has since been discontinued.
The social networking platform admitted it built such an app which was never released publicly, and argued against its use to identify people. According to BI, the app was fairly rudimentary, with a “basic camera interface” that could identify individuals and show their Facebook name and profile photo. You know, sort of like a dystopian version of Snapchat.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the app was never distributed outside of its employees. And that those who were testing it could only use the app with other Facebook workers and existing Facebook friends who had facial recognition settings enabled on their account.
“As a way to learn about new technologies, our teams regularly build apps to use internally,” the spokesperson said. “The app described here was only available to Facebook employees, and could only recognize employees and their friends who had face recognition enabled.”
The app highlights how Facebook experimented with features that could heighten the anxiety of people worried about their privacy. Facebook has received criticism for using facial recognition in the past.
There were reports in October this year that Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) research team has developed a tool that tracks the facial recognition system to wrongly identify a person in a video.
It’s not surprising the company opted to stop testing this particular internal app. But it’s an important reminder that Facebook is very, very good at finding ever creepier ways of watching its billions of users, regardless of what Mark Zuckerberg says about privacy.