If you’ve checked Facebook in the past two weeks, you’ve almost certainly seen it, or done it yourself: the “10-Year Challenge” photo-sharing meme. This latest viral craze involves users posting pictures of themselves ten years ago alongside a photo of what they look like today. This seems relatively harmless, but as tech expert and author Kate O’Neill wrote in WIRED, it could also be a sneaky way for Facebook’s facial recognition technology to gather even more of your data.
Critics of O’ Neill’s theory have pointed out that Facebook already has access to most of these photos, so it wouldn’t need people to re-upload them again in order to learn more about your face. However, users participating in the challenge often add valuable context to the photos, arranging them chronologically and even including info like where they were or who they were with when the photos were taken. By putting these pictures in a “then-and-now” format, users are basically doing the work for Facebook.
However, this isn’t exactly Facebook’s fault. As O’ Neill points out, its users share some responsibility for protecting their own info.
“Regardless of the origin or intent behind this meme, we must all become savvier about the data we create and share, the access we grant to it, and the implications for its use,” O’ Neill wrote. “We should demand that businesses treat our data with due respect, by all means. But we also need to treat our own data with respect.”
Even if the 10-Year Challenge is truly just a fun, meaningless meme, this is good advice. It never hurts to think critically about any post that invites you to share more of your data on Facebook.