Facebook appears to be preparing to launch a new kind of captcha which asks users to prove their identities by uploading photos of their faces, Wired reported yesterday.
At least some users reported encountering a prompt asking them to "upload a photo of yourself that clearly shows your face", accompanied by a guarantee that Facebook would "check it and then permanently delete it from our servers". In a statement to Wired, a Facebook spokesperson wrote the new system was intended to "help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including creating an account, sending Friend requests, setting up ads payments, and creating or editing ads".
Users appear to be locked out until Facebook verifies the photo is legitimate, a process which Wired reported is automatic and compares submitted photos to others on the site to ensure it isn't a duplicate or a fake.
a friend sent me this: Facebook is now locking users out of account features, then demanding that those users "verify" their account to get back in by scanning an image of their face. AN IMAGE OF THEIR FACE. pic.twitter.com/T4TIsJFxX8
— can Amy Goodman pls stop inviting Assange on thx (@flexlibris) November 28, 2017
As Wired noted, rumours of such a system have been circulating since at least April, when several users posted in a thread on Reddit's r/socialmedia board saying they had encountered a nearly identical roadblock to logging in.
Other tech giants such as Apple have implemented new forms of facial recognition for security purposes, though Apple's Face ID for iPhone X relies on a 3D scan of users' faces and thus is presumably harder to trick.
While some users are likely to be creeped out by Facebook asking them to feed it selfies to log in, the reality is that the site already has an Orwellian stockpile of information on members - such as years' worth of embarrassing photos, awkward statuses, the content of direct messages, mobile phone numbers, addresses, and US debit card information. Hey, at least it's a little less off-putting than Facebook's pilot program to fight revenge porn, which involves having users actually send in the nude photos or videos to the site to have them pre-emptively blocked.