Facebook is considering building facial recognition capabilities into its smart glasses – which would make life easy for stalkers ‘We all know you can trust Facebook to do the right thing and keep your data nice and safe.’ Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday. Tech gets even more in your Face-book Picture this: you’re sitting in a bar and a creepy stranger keeps trying to talk to you. You ignore them. The next day you get a text from that stranger. Not only do they know your phone number, they know where you live; in fact, they know everything about you. They were wearing Facebook smart glasses, you see. The moment they looked in your direction the glasses identified you via facial recognition technology. This, it seems, is precisely the sort of Black Mirror-esque future Facebook wants. The tech company (and serial privacy invader) has teamed up with Ray-Ban to develop a range of smart glasses. While it’s not clear exactly what these devices will do yet, Buzzfeed has reported that Facebook is considering building facial recognition capabilities into them. During an internal meeting on Thursday, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice-president of augmented and virtual reality, told employees that Facebook was currently assessing the legal issues surrounding this. Legal issues are one thing, but what about the very obvious ethical and privacy issues? Would you be able to mark your face as “unsearchable?”, one employee asked. And what about the potential for “real-world harm” and “stalkers”? Bosworth replied: “Face recognition … might be the thorniest issue, where the benefits are so clear, and the risks are so clear, and we don’t know where to balance those things.” Excuse me? What kind of benefits could possibly balance the risk of making life extremely easy for stalkers and creeps? Well, Bosworth later said on Twitter, it could help people with prosopagnosia, a neurological condition where you can’t recognize people’s faces. More generally, Bosworth said, it would be super handy when you run into someone at a party and can’t remember their name. Ah yes, I can totally see how avoiding a little social awkwardness balances out the whole stalker thing! No need to worry too much about privacy, though. We all know you can trust Facebook to do the right thing and keep your data nice and safe. When a (female) Wired editor raised the concern that you could no longer pacify creeps at parties by giving them a fake name and number, for example, Bosworth breezily replied that there’d be a technological fix for that. The exchange makes it almost hilariously clear that Bosworth had given very little thought to the implications of this kind of tech on women’s everyday lives. Which is to be expected, considering Facebook started life as a website that let people rank hot girls via photos obtained without their consent. Facebook, of course, may not end up building facial recognition into its glasses. However, the fact it is even considering doing so is a disturbing reminder of how little ownership we currently have over our own faces. Several photos of your face, for example, are probably in Clearview AI’s database. The company, which counts the Facebook board member Peter Thiel as an investor, built a secretive facial recognition tool which it trained, in part, on pictures it scraped from social media. It sells its services to law enforcement agencies but also gives access to its app – which lets you hold your phone up to someone’s face and pull up their personal information – to select people. John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Gristedes grocery, boasted about using the Clearview App to identify a man he saw on a date with his daughter, for example. As well as being intrusive, facial recognition technology is plagued with problems. It doesn’t work as well on people with darker skin, for one thing. At least three black men have been falsely arrested based on a bad facial recognition match. But as long as the collateral damage involved with this tech is just black people and women, who cares, eh? None of the big technology companies seem to. Timnit Gebru is one of the leading voices in AI ethics and has done groundbreaking work around bias in facial recognition technology. Gebru was fired from her role as technical co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team in December; she alleges they were trying to suppress her research on bias. Last week Google also fired Margaret Mitchell, another top AI ethics researcher. Big tech loves to wax lyrical about their commitment to privacy and ethics but their actions tell a very different story. Japan’s un-empowering minister for women’s empowerment It’s illegal for married couples to have different surnames in Japan. Couples don’t have to use the man’s last name but do so 96% of the time. There has been pressure to change this ridiculous law and let women keep their birth names after marriage but conservatives reckon this would damage the traditional family unit. I mean, think of the children! Having parents with different names would be an unspeakable trauma! Japan’s minister for women’s empowerment and gender seems to think so, anyway: she was one of 50 politicians who recently opposed a legal change to shared surnames. We need to talk about the physical toll of childbirth “The transition to a postnatal body, with all of its curious and sometimes distressing frailties, is just as much an inextricable part of motherhood as it is an invisible one,” writes Elicia O’Reilly. And yet the physical toll of childbirth is rarely discussed. More visibility “may help mothers to better navigate the new realities of their bodies after birth, and give them comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone”. Kidnappers abduct 317 schoolgirls in Nigeria This is the third mass kidnapping of students in three months. Hunting the men who kill women: Mexico’s femicide detective Frida Guerrera has spent the last five years searching for disappeared women and memorialising the victims of femicide. Guerrera claims she has helped police find more than 40 killers since 2017. Don’t miss this incredible long read. Gwyneth Paltrow is at it again The medical director of NHS England has begged the actress to stop suggesting that you can treat long Covid with saunas, herbal cocktails and intuitive fasting. The week in potatoarchy Mr Potato Head is getting a gender-neutral makeover so kids can create more inclusive potato families. Some people are very upset about this. Taters gona tate, after all. The real takeaway from this story, though, should be that carbohydrates are just a social construct.