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Facebook's 10 Year Challenge: A meme or something big?

Talk of the town, Facebook’s 10 Year challenge spread like wildfire and consumed us all. The past week saw a lot of people putting up a combination of two pictures of themselves, one from 2009 and the other from 2019, respectively. The challenge went viral on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram alike.

What started off as a mere meme got completely blown out of proportion after a tweet posted by author and consultant, Kate O’Neill, on Twitter.

An expert in integrated experience strategy and human-centric digital transformation, Kate’s tweet was bound to be taken seriously and so, it got over 10,972 retweets and 24,120 likes!

With her single tweet Kate started a discussion cultivating from the thought that the harmless 10 Year Challenge is in fact a data mining strategy from Facebook ‘to train the facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition’.

Later, Kate posted a detailed article on Wired as well. Explaining her muse further, she argued about the fact that how readily we give up our data without considering the fact that ‘humans are the richest data sources for most of the technology emerging in the world’.

And she has a point! You wonder how? Read away.

Nowadays when Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are being explored, adopted and even being incorporated in our daily lives, an activity like this leaves a big question mark.

Keeping within a strict time-frame of 10 years, people have put up two of their pictures out there, making Facebook and other data collecting companies’ task much easier than sifting through many of the profile pictures that are not even uploaded in a chronological order.

Host of rebuttals were also in line with one group of people insisting on the fact that the challenge itself has gathered a lot of noise; users uploading 10-year pictures of their cats, dogs and other pets. While, another group pressing on the thought that all this data was already and readily available on Facebook.

However, both rebuttals can be ruled out respectively, 1) as of now, AI has evolved to differentiate between a human and animal face, 2) a strict time limit can help any data mining company by leaps and bounds in machine learning, saving up on time, labour and cost.

Meanwhile, Facebook also issued a statement on its official social media pages, trying hard to clear the air. ''The 10 year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement. It’s evidence of the fun people have on Facebook, and that’s it.’’

Still, the scepticism prevails. Our take on the scenario is, instead of boarding the bandwagon, being wary of such trends is a right approach, no matter how harmless it seems.

When human data is so important nowadays, vigilance is the key. Providing it readily for companies that might use it against your will, is nefarious.

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