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Viral #10YearChallenge game: How sinister, how much fun?

Tech experts have raised privacy concern alleging that the challenge could be just a way of collecting data points for Facebook to refine its facial recognition algorithm. 

Tripti Narain Tripti Narain
New Delhi Published on: January 19, 2019 16:37 IST
Viral 10YearChallenge
Image Source : INDIA TV

Viral 10YearChallenge

So we are under the grip of another social media rage that has hit a nerve and gone viral, it is the '10 Year Challenge'. It is simple - social media users upload side-by-side pictures of themselves from 10 years back and now. Well, don't we all love to post our throwback pictures and smile satisfactorily on receiving some excited, endearing comments? Sounds fun, right? Well, this seemingly harmless 'challenge' has set off some high-voltage concerns from technology experts. 

These tech experts have raised privacy concern alleging that the challenge could be just a way of collecting data points for Facebook so that the social media giant can refine its facial recognition algorithm. 

Stirring a new debate, Technology author Kate O’Neil asked on a social media platform whether #10yearchallenge is a cover-up plan to gather age-related characteristics and face data in large numbers. However, she also acknowledged that user data, especially profile photos, is already available on the social network, from the time user created his or her profile on Facebook. But a comparative side-by-side photo analysis makes it a lot easier for machine learning algorithms to analyse and derive points and predict age progression. And this basically makes the seemingly harmless challenge quite sinister. 

Traditionaly there are 3 challenges to facial recognition - age, low light and angle. Though we have data to aid Artificial Intelligence, such insight and analysis will definitely give an edge to FB's machine learning. Users are flooding the Facebook NewsFeed with their candid photos that invariably are clear from 2009 and 2019 to show how they’ve changed over the years, allegedly helping Facial recognition softwares. 

However, Facebook has denied its involvement in the challenge. "The 10-year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement. It’s evidence of the fun people have on Facebook, and that’s it,” said the company in a tweet.

Despite Facebook’s denial, a lot of users have extended support to Kate’s theory. With such data, who knows Facebook could be tempted to tinker with it, after all we all can see their attempts to play emotional with us through our memories - that's also data handling, right? Moreover, Facebook’s record in keeping users’ privacy intact has already, multiple times, come under scanner with security breaches and data harvesting by companies such as Cambridge Analytica who tried to gauge people's political leaning through a personality quiz.

We have to guard ourselves, the times have changed, and this is not the first time that data collection has been disguised as an innocuous social game. Play safe!


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