Meta, the company formally known as Facebook, issued an update on their use of facial recognition technology. In the update, Meta announced that they will shut down the facial recognition system as part of the company-wide move to limit the use of facial recognition in their products. It is noteworthy, however, that although these features will no longer be accessible by end users, Meta likely can flip a switch at any moment and utilize the facial recognition they have developed up until now. Although the announcement indicates that Meta will delete more than a billion people's individual facial recognition templates, that does not mean that their algorithm will no longer be able to recognize these faces.
Artificial intelligence facial recognition algorithms train on data sets which map photographs to names or other personally identifying information. After the algorithm’s “weights” are trained (in this case—on a billion faces), deleting the image files will not reduce or in any way hinder the already trained algorithm. What Meta is saying in their announcement is that they likely don't need these files anymore, and to make the public think their custodial action in deleting the files is a benevolent one, they issued a public address.