Facebook has a fake news troll problem, this we know. We also know that it’s hilariously bad at keeping customers’ private data safe. And yet, it seems Facebook is trying to fix one problem by involving the other, and this absolutely isn’t going to end in disaster at all.
Apparently Facebook wants to identify which user profiles are actual people and not bots, which is great. Unfortunately, they want to do it by having people verify themselves with video selfies.
Jane Manchun Wong is a developer and app researcher that likes to dig through apps for hidden secrets and bugs. She recently found evidence in Facebook Messenger’s beta app that suggested they were looking at offering end-to-end encrypted audio and video calls. Her latest finding is a little more worrisome however.
She says she found hints of a feature Facebook is testing in its main app. The unreleased tool asks users to scan their face in the app to verify their identity. It asks users to take a video selfie, while looking in different directions, so they can be scanned from various angles. According to the description on screen, Facebook says it “helps us confirm your identity and check that you’re a real person.”
There is a disclaimer that pops up later on where Facebook notes “no one else will see” the video selfie you submit, and that it will be “deleted 30 days after your identity is confirmed.”
What exactly Facebook would use this for is unstated. However, given that the supposed intent is to eventually delete the scan, it might be meant to help the social network weed out fake accounts and propaganda bots.
Which is great, except why would you want to give even more biometric data to the company that has consistently leaked your other data for the last two years? And it doesn’t say how long it would take to verify a person’s identity, which means there’s no exact timeline on which your scan is deleted. It’s only 30 days “after” verification.
So pardon me if I’m not lining up to shove my face into a camera for Facebook again.