If you’re using social media, you’ve probably noticed a number of people posting then-and-now pictures.
It’s a trend, best known as the “10 year challenge” or the “glow up challenge” that calls for social media users to post a photo of what they looked like a decade ago next to what they look like now.
Now, after the challenge went viral, some people are starting to question if the challenge really is as innocent as it looks.
What if Facebook is using the 10-year challenge to collect data from us?
What is the 10-year challenge?
For many of us, looking back at old photos of ourselves can be both a painful, embarrassing and funny experience. Why did you wear that shirt all the time? What in the world were you thinking with those shoes?
But the 10-year challenge isn’t just making people look back at their old photos, it challenges us to actually share them online.
In the challenge, people are posting photos of themselves in 2009 and compares them to ones taken in 2019 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Currently, the hashtag #10yearchallenge has 1.6 million posts on Instagram, still counting.
The viral challenge also proved to be popular among a number of celebrities, with everyone from Tyra Banks, Caitlyn Jenner and Miley Cyrus to Nicki Minaj and Madonna taking part.
Is the 10-year challenge really harmless?
The 10-year challenge sure looks harmless and fun, but now experts are arguing that it could be a different agenda behind it.
A theory is that the challenge could be a form of social engineering, meant to collect information on how you age.
This theory suggests that companies could collect data from the pictures and use it to advance facial recognition technology to factor in aging.
Tech-writer Kate O’Neill shared a Tweet asking if the challenge “could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition?”
Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram
Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition
— Kate O’Neill (@kateo) January 12, 2019
O’Neill’s Tweet spurred a discussion with mixed opinions.
Some people argue that these pictures probably have been posted on Facebook before and therefore the site already has the information.
Sadly, if this is the case they already have access to all of your pictures with associated image metadata.
— Emory Serviss (@eserviss) January 12, 2019
Facebook already has that information. All the photos that have been uploaded have been tagged so they already know age progression. So does Google. It’s too late to try and hide from the beast
— Walter Estrada (@BionicWally) January 16, 2019
While others point out that some people are using photos they had never posted online before.
O’Neill says in a WIRED column, that what makes this challenge different from simply posting photos is that they’re labeled as “then and now” which makes it easier for data mining.
But age progression technology could be both good and bad.
For instance, O’Neill points out that it could be used to help find and identify missing children. Last year, police reported tracking down nearly 3,000 kids in New Dehli, India.
But it can also be used for bad purposes. As an example, O’Neill explains that a health insurance company could determine that you appear to be aging too quickly, making them increase the cost of your insurance. Scary, right?
O’Neill adds that “we need to approach our interactions with technology mindful of the data we generate and how it can be used at scale.”
Twitter 10-year challenge memes
Harmless or not, the challenge has created a lot of funny memes and posts online.
Saw everyone posting these 2009 vs 2019 pics so here’s mine pic.twitter.com/nIn5TU7zNE
— Sam Thorne (@Strippin) January 13, 2019
me in 2009 vs me in 2019 pic.twitter.com/WgNRgyh8ZV
— Tyler Coates (@tylercoates) January 13, 2019
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) January 13, 2019
— NJ Devil (@NJDevil00) January 13, 2019
— Jessica Bibi “The Darkling isn’t dead” Cooper (@JessicaBCooper) January 13, 2019
Me in 2009 vs 2019 pic.twitter.com/x1apTdhFvx
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 13, 2019
What do you think? Is the 10-year challenge a part of something bigger or just a harmless meme?