Facebook Weighing Up Legality of Facial Recognition in Upcoming Smart Glasses

Facebook is reportedly weighing up the legal implications of building facial recognition technology into a pair of smart glasses that the company is currently developing and which it intends to launch later this year.

facebook aria prototype 1

Prototype Project Aria AR glasses Facebook is using to research AR tech

According to BuzzFeed News, Facebook's chief of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth, told employees during an internal meeting on Thursday that the company is currently evaluating whether or not a legal framework exists that would allow it to integrate facial recognition tech into the devices.

"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," Bosworth said in response to an employee question about whether people would be able to "mark their faces as unsearchable" when smart glasses become a prevalent technology. The unnamed worker specifically highlighted fears about the potential for "real-world harm," including "stalkers."

According to the report, Bosworth was quick to emphasize that nothing had yet been decided and that it could well prove that current state laws would make it impossible for Facebook to offer people the ability to search for other people based on the real-world profile of their face.

Following the story's publication, Bosworth took to Twitter to underline the fact that Facebook had been "open" about its efforts to develop AR glasses, which he said are "still in the early stages."

"Face recognition is a hugely controversial topic and for good reason and I was speaking about was how we are going to have to have a very public discussion about the pros and cons," said Bosworth, adding in a follow-up tweet: "In our meeting today I specifically said the future product would be fine without it but there were some nice use cases if it could be done in a way the public and regulators were comfortable with."

Facebook first publicly spoke about its smart glasses project last year, when it claimed that the product would arrive "sooner rather than later" in 2021. The glasses are reportedly being developed in partnership with Ray-Ban, and are expected to go head to head with similar rival products from Snapchat and Amazon.


Facebook has used facial recognition on its social network to identify people in pictures and power photo tag suggestions, but using the technology in an outward-facing, real-world capacity is a particularly sensitive issue. The controversy has been amplified by reports of government authorities and private businesses exploring the technology as a means of identifying and tracking civilians, combined with a lack of federal regulation surrounding its use.

Facial recognition has been implemented in Apple's Photos app and Apple has used it as a security feature for unlocking iPhones and iPads via biometric authentication. Apple is also working on smart glasses that will augment peoples' real-world perspective with digital features, although its product is still believed to be "several years away" from launch and there is currently no suggestion that Apple intends to use the technology in its rumored AR glasses. At any rate, given the company's privacy focus, any such application would be highly unlikely to resemble the kind that Facebook appears to be exploring.

For more information on Apple's rumored smart glasses, be sure to check out our dedicated guide.

Top Rated Comments

Mike_Trivisonno Avatar
6 weeks ago
Facebook just gets creepier and creepier.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ScottHammet Avatar
6 weeks ago
Facebook's only concern for the question of legality is whether or not they think they'll have a defensible position for their intended misuse of their capability. One thing we can all count on is that no matter what use they market these for, Facebook has its own clandestine intentions. Just ponder a database that tracks every person who's ever been within focal range of these glasses while you're wearing them? Think that won't end up on some government agencies subpoena list? And one wonders how many "customized" ads for, say, creepy personal hygiene products, my browser will suddenly serve up after being "detected" by someone wearing these who recently bought them.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
breather Avatar
6 weeks ago
Please, no face recognition. I do NOT trust Facebook on this (and many other things).
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WBRacing Avatar
6 weeks ago
I will never hold a conversation with anyone wearing these or any other similar type of glasses. = FACT
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vicviper789 Avatar
6 weeks ago
Don’t be a glasshole ?
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
svanstrom Avatar
6 weeks ago
Apple doing an on-device solution matching against people in your adressbook I would accept; but Facebook… HELL NO!!

There's just no way that they can be trusted with some nice sounding legalease about how they aren't going to be evil this time.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
iMessage Android featured

Apple's Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android Revealed in Legal Documents

Friday April 9, 2021 2:22 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android. Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users...
fake airpods 3

Counterfeit 'AirPods 3' Hit the Market Prior to Official Announcement

Friday April 9, 2021 2:45 am PDT by
Apple is expected to launch the third iteration of AirPods in the third quarter of this year. Rumors and reports suggest the new AirPods will feature an updated design more in line with the AirPods Pro, but lacking in "Pro" features such as active noise cancellation. Despite AirPods 3 not yet being officially announced by Apple, counterfeit products of the unreleased earbuds have already hit ...
nba tracking prompt orange

Two-Thirds of iPhone Users Expected to Block Ad Tracking

Friday April 9, 2021 7:19 am PDT by
As many as 68 percent of iPhone users are expected to deny advertisers permission to track them thanks to Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature, in what is beginning to look like a significant blow to the advertising industry (via AdWeek). With the launch of iOS 14.5, apps will have to receive explicit user permission before accessing an iPhone's advertising identifier or IDFA, which is...
iPhone 13 Battery Life Feature

DigiTimes: iPhone 13 Pro Models to Feature 120Hz ProMotion Refresh Rate and 15-20% Less Power Consumption

Friday April 9, 2021 12:52 am PDT by
The two premium "Pro" models of the upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will be equipped with a low-power LTPO display, enabling the iPhones to have a 120Hz refresh rate, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. According to today's paywalled report, Apple suppliers Samsung and LG Display are in the process of converting parts of their production capacity to produce LTPO ...
ipad pro and macbook pro

iPad and MacBook Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Global Chip Shortage

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Apple is facing a global shortage of certain components for some of its MacBook and iPad models, causing the Cupertino tech giant and its suppliers to postpone production of the products, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. According to the report, MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key...
ehric

iPhone 12 Mini Missing From Top 5 Best Selling Smartphone List of January 2021

Friday April 9, 2021 4:58 am PDT by
According to market data compiled by Counterpoint Research, Apple's smallest iPhone since the 2016 iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 mini, struggled to obtain a spot in the top five list of best-selling smartphones in January of this year. According to the market data, the iPhone 12 mini came in eighth place for the best-selling smartphone worldwide in the first month of the year. However, the iPhone ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...