Facebook is testing a feature that will require users to scan their faces to verify their identities on the platform under certain conditions—that’s according to the findings of developer and researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who found the unreleased verification system buried in a recent build of the app.
This is how Facebook's Facial Recognition-based Identity Verification looks like
It asks me to look at several directions within the circle
It explicitly states no one else will see the video selfie and will be deleted 30 days after the confirmation pic.twitter.com/296bGRDyYZ
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) November 5, 2019
As Wong notes, the new system will ask users to verify their identities by taking a video selfie while looking in different directions. Facebook’s onboarding screen says the system “helps us confirm your identity and check that you’re a real person.”
On that same screen and later in the actual video selfie process, Facebook notes that “no one else will see” the video selfie you submit to them and says the video will be “deleted 30 days after your identity is confirmed.”
Still, given how Facebook has played fast and loose with the data people gave them solely to verify their identities before, it doesn’t seem likely many privacy-minded users will trust the company isn’t going to do anything else with their video selfie. Facebook also does not state in the screen Wong discovered just how long it will take to verify a user’s identity using this method and thus when the video you submitted will actually be deleted.
Of course, it’s possible this new feature will never roll out to the public, but given how complete it looks, it seems likely Facebook may begin testing this feature soon. We’ve reached out to Facebook to get more information on the feature and will update this post when we hear back.
Update: Facebook tells us that the video selfie verification feature is something the company is testing in order to help keep fake accounts off the platform. The company says in this way the video selfie is like a more advanced version of the standard CAPTCHA test, and that the goal of the video selfie is to help Facebook’s systems determine in real time who is operating the account—a person or a bot.
Facebook also says despite being called a “video selfie” the security feature does not use facial recognition. “This test is one of the steps we use to determine that a real person is operating an account rather than a bot. It does not use facial recognition. Instead, it detects motion and whether a face is in the video,” the Facebook spokesperson says.