Future Tense Newsletter: Questioning Facebook’s Massive Facial Recognition Database

A smartphone displaying the Facebook mobile app sits on a wooden surface.
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Greetings, Future Tensers,

It’s a common experience on Facebook: When you upload a photo of friends, the platform suggests them before you do it yourself. But how is Facebook able do that? And how is its software getting even better at tagging? The millions of photos uploaded by users give the company all it needs to enhance its facial recognition database, which may be one of the biggest in the world. As companies increasingly use facial recognition software for (seemingly) benign purposes, more people are pushing back, questioning the very existence of these databases. April Glaser explains how Facebook’s massive facial recognition database is setting off alarms.

That’s not the only angle on privacy that Future Tense has covered in the past week . Jane C. Hu writes about a recent case in which the culprits were caught using the Wi-Fi data off of their smartphones. And Josh Kaplan examines how the proliferation of license plate readers is expanding the toolkits of  everyone from landlords to law enforcement and why exactly it’s concerning for civil liberties.

Other things we read between speedrunning our favorite video games:

Canning crypto: Aaron Mak looks at how the president’s fans are taking his diss of Bitcoin.

I “voted”: What ever happened with West Virginia’s foray into blockchain voting? Yael Grauer tried to find out.

Deepfakes debate: Nina Iacono Brown, a professor specializing in media law, examines two bills aimed at fighting the proliferation of deepfakes.

You’re blocked: A federal appeals court has ruled that the president cannot block his critics from viewing and commenting on his tweets.

Petty change: The Federal Trade Commission’s $5 billion fine on Facebook is historic, but it may not put much of a dent into its operations.

Prime Day: April Glaser finds out what it’s like to work in an Amazon warehouse on Prime Day by talking to a former employee.

Future forecasts: Although weather prediction is getting better, it still hasn’t put the local weatherperson out of a job. Henry Grabar interviews journalist Andrew Blum about forecasting.

To life on Mars,

Anthony Nguyen
For Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.