Over the past week or so, Facebook has been flooded with posts of people sharing photos of themselves today alongside images of themselves a decade ago.
While such posts may seem harmless, I suspect that these images are being collected for analysis, perhaps for study regarding the impact of aging on facial recognition.
While it is true, that, for many folks, both of the images that they are sharing were already available online to at least some segment of the public, it is important to understand that a decade ago most Facebook activity occurred from computers, not smartphones, meaning that the vast majority of photos were likely not shared in real time; images were often shared with friends or the public only after people periodically inserted their SD cards from their digital cameras into their laptops or connected their early smartphones to their computers. Many images were also still being scanned from prints. As such, the dates of early photos on Facebook are not reliably represented by the time that the images were posted, or even by metadata that may have existed in the corresponding image files. People sharing, or resharing, the old photos now – and providing dates for those images – are creating a valuable set of data points that can be utilized for various purposes.
As facial recognition becomes a staple of today’s authentication, for example, improving the accounting for aging becomes increasingly important. Facial-recognition-based authentication engines should be able to recognize someone as he or she ages, and should also recognize that something may be amiss if someone who authenticates in 2019 looks exactly the same as he or she did in 2009.
I do not know who started the 10 year meme – or if it was started in a surreptitious effort to collect data – but, I am quite sure that, regardless of its origins, the “10 year meme” and the data it is generating will be used for all sorts of analysis.