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Data concerns over viral “Ten Year Challenge”

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 07:54:55-05

(NBC) You’ve probably seen the “Ten Year Challenge” going viral on social media. The trend seems harmless enough, someone posts “then and now” pictures of themselves, ten years apart. Millions have taken part, even celebrities.

But, you may be giving up more data than you realize.

Tech author Kate O’Neill looked at another case of “then and now,” the technology we are posting those photos on.

“10 years ago I might’ve actually participated in the meme,” O’Neill said. “Now I’m looking at it with more skepticism that it could actually as a data set be used to train facial recognition and artificial intelligence.”

Her concerns on Twitter and in a “Wired” op-ed went viral, spurring a conversation about the broader implications for our data.

“I think we need to be aware of patterns memes that ask for us to participate in particular way, there may be a reason that’s asked of us,” O’Neill said.

Seemingly harmless games and hashtags can generate searchable, neatly packaged information. This information could potentially be used as training data for the algorithms powering AI and facial recognition.

“That kind of thing can help make that training process a lot easier,” Kurt Wagner, Social Media Editor for Recode, said.

Some say O’Neill’s concerns are overblown, but she insists she is not against social media.

“It’s a great way to keep up with friends and family, we just have to be aware of the data we’re sharing when we do so,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill wants to encourage people to pause before they post and raise awareness about the potential trade-offs in participating in these types of trends.