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Is the 10-year challenge a data-mining scheme?

Posted by / January 21, 2019

If you’re on any social media whatsoever, you’ve probably seen the “10-Year Challenge.” It’s pretty straightforward––you post a picture of yourself now next to a picture of yourself ten years ago. The purpose is to…I don’t know? It’s just something to do for fun.

Or is it?

One tech writer suggests that the challenge is, or could be, more malicious. It began with a tweet:

But she went on to write an op-ed for Wired:

Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.

Sure, you could mine Facebook for profile pictures and look at posting dates or EXIF data. But that whole set of profile pictures could end up generating a lot of useless noise. People don’t reliably upload pictures in chronological order, and it’s not uncommon for users to post pictures of something other than themselves as a profile picture. A quick glance through my Facebook friends’ profile pictures shows a friend’s dog who just died, several cartoons, word images, abstract patterns, and more.

The moral of the story is clear: delete your social media, burn your computer, and go live off the grid.

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