The “10-year challenge” meme has caught traction in recent weeks on Facebook, gaining millions of participants. Its rules are simple: upload a photo of yourself from 10 years ago to Facebook, alongside a recent photo of yourself.
Although seemingly harmless, high-tech woman Kate O'Neill posted a different theory about the meme on Twitter, and later in the online magazine Wired. According to O’Neill, it is possible that the meme is actually a Facebook ploy designed to improve the company’s facial recognition capabilities.
“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,” O’Neill wrote in Wired.
O'Neill admitted that the pictures could have been obtained in another way - by digging through old profile pictures, but she explained that this method has some drawbacks: People do not always upload up-to-date photos, and often upload profile pictures that do not actually show an image of themselves.
Facebook denied having anything to do with the 10-year challenge. “The 10 year challenge is a user-generated meme that started on its own, without our involvement,” Facebook said in a Twitter reply to Wired editor Nicholas Thompson. “It’s evidence of the fun people have on Facebook, and that’s it.”