Last Updated on January 26, 2022
You’ve probably seen the ’10-Year Challenge’ going around Facebook and other social network sites. But some say it may not be harmless fun.
The premise of that 10-Year Challenge was as simple as it could be.
You went into your photo archives to dig up a photo of yourself from 2009. Then you post it side by side with a photo of yourself taken in 2019. That way, everyone could see how much — or how little — you’ve changed in the past 10 years.
I don’t know exactly when the challenge officially began. But I do know I first noticed it a few weeks ago.
Some of the photo combinations were quite amusing. I thought about taking part, and even did a quick scan of my 2009 photos. But I didn’t see one that I liked enough to bother.
Maybe I should be glad I didn’t.
It didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to appear.
The first sounding of the alarm I noted was from author Kate O’Neill. Shw posted a tweet about the 10-Year Challenge:
She tweeted she’d have probably played along a decade ago. But now, she “ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition.”
She wrote an editorial for Wired discussing the possibilities.
“My intent wasn’t to claim that the meme is inherently dangerous,” she wrote. But knowing the facial recognition scenario was “broadly plausible,” she said it’s “worth considering the depth and breadth of the personal data we share without reservations.”
Yes, she acknowledges, those photos are already out there. Many of the people who took part in the 10-Year Challenge used photos they’d already posted to Facebook a decade earlier.
But in the photo challenge, those people handed Facebook — or any other platform where they played along — a convenient package: two photos taken 10 years apart. No research, no deep dive into metadata, no time spent going through archives required.
That’s probably true.
The theory on taking one’s photos to improve facial recognition may not be a valid concern at all.
But in fairness, O’Neill’s point wasn’t so much to condemn this particular meme. Instead, she hoped to at least start a conversation about how much we’re sharing.
She certainly accomplished that.
The question is: How concerned will we be the next time we see a meme like this? And will our concern be great enough to give us any amount of pause before we participate?