Was the 10-year photo challenge a ruse?

Thank God that “10-year photo” social media challenge is over.

Let’s be honest: it was purely created as an opportunity to showcase ourselves at our very best 10 years ago.

Back then, we didn’t have filters and FaceTune to pretty up our images, but as we were 10 years younger, everyone has been all too happy to dig into the archives for a suitably hot shot.


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It’s then generally paired with a filtered, FaceTuned pic from more recent times, and the shots are coupled up so as to illicit fawning responses from the crowd: “You haven’t aged a bit!”

I get it; it’s an ego boost. A pick-me-up. It’s harmless.

Or is it?

Wired magazine published an online report suggesting that the whole trend was perhaps designed to help Facebook finetune their facial recognition algorithms.

It all began when journalist Kate O’Neill tweeted:

“Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture ageing meme going around on Facebook and Instagram. Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition.”

In her Wired report, she confirmed that her tweet was initially intended to be “flippant” – but added that it wasn’t altogether crazy.

“I knew the facial recognition scenario was broadly plausible and indicative of a trend that people should be aware of,” she writes.

Facebook responded with an attempt to be witty, telling Wired, “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.”

That might be the case. But the fact remains, we’re all too willing to share so much of ourselves online, so freely and so publicly, without fully understanding the implications.

As Kate O’Neill commented in her report: “It’s worth considering the depth and breadth of the personal data we share without reservations… We should demand that businesses treat our data with due respect, by all means. But we also need to treat our own data with respect, too.”

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