Chances are you've done or at least seen the Facebook 10 year challenge, also known as the How are you aging challenge. Is it really just harmless fun, or something a little more scary?

The challenge is a Facebook trend that has users posting their first-ever Facebook profile picture side-by-side with a photo of you today to show how you've changed in the years Facebook has been around.

That seems pretty fun right? It is, but a theory from Kate O'Neil has us a little freaked out. She's a 'Futurist' (a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends) and in a piece she wrote for Wired magazine she lays out the potential threats of the 10 year challenge.

Basically, she warns that everyone sharing photos of them at different ages could help improve facial recognition software to recognize the aging process in people:

Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics, and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g. how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you'd want a broad and rigorous data set with lots of people's pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years....

It would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully-labeled set of then-and-now photos....

Through the Facebook meme, most people have been helpfully adding that context back in (e.g. “me in 2008, and me in 2018”), as well as further info, in many cases, about where and how the pic was taken (e.g. “2008 at University of Whatever, taken by Joe; 2018 visiting New City for this year’s such-and-such event”).

In other words, thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large data set of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now.


Whether or not this is the actual reason for the 10 year challenge, that's a pretty interesting theory. It seems like nothing we do nowadays is ever private anymore.

What do you think? Are you worried about the rise of technology that could potentially invade our privacy to the point of non-existence, or do you think it's all a bunch of people taking science fiction too literally?

Special thanks to Eric in Kalamazoo for pointing out the article.


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