Is the #10YearChallenge a Clever Hack to Gather Images for Facebook’s Facial Recognition System?

Was the #10YearChallenge A Clever Hack to Gather Images for Facebook's Facial Recognition System?

Over the last few days, social media has been going crazy over a recent trend: The #10YearChallenge.

The #10YearChallenge involves social media users sharing throwback photos of themselves from 10 years ago, next to very recent photos, mostly from this year.

Like most trends on social media, nobody knows who started it or why they did, but the trend caught on quickly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It has seen users share millions of hilarious throwbacks from the past decade or so. Many users even did throwbacks with pictures dating as far back as 15 and 20 years ago.

Although nobody knows for sure who started it, according to GQ magazine, the 10 Year Challenge may have started from Facebook thanks to its feature which brings back old pictures on users’ walls.

However a data scientist has taken a rather different view about the 10 Years Challenge. Writing on Wired Magazines online, Kate O’Neill, founder of Data Analytics firm, KO Insights, speculates a dark angle to the the 10 Years Challenge.

According to her, the challenge could actually be a clever tactic by Facebook to gather pictures which can be used to advance its facial recognition technology.

“Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics, and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g. how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous data set with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.”

She speculates that the idea of placing an older picture right next to a recent one provides a “very large data set of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now.”

But Ms Kate didn’t accuse Facebook of anything malicious. As a matter of fact, she believes that improvements in facial recognition technology will be beneficial to efforts such as tracking kids missing for years.

However, her grouse is on the need for users to be “savvier about the data we create and share, the access we grant to it, and the implications for its use.”

Now as crazy as this may sound, she does have precedence. Facebook is already in deep waters over how it has handled user data before 2018. With the exposure of Cambridge Analytica, users have come to realise just how far and how much data Facebook gathers about them.

And over the last decade, Facebook has been notorious for several growth hacking schemes that aim to draw more users back on to the platform. Many of these have had their intended effect.

But for the #10YearChallenge no one knows for sure who will benefit from it. But one thing is clear, users definitely had their fun.

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