A theory is making the rounds online that the recent 10 Year Challenge that popped up on Facebook and Instagram may be some form of social engineering, meant to collect information on how you age.

The “10 Year Challenge” calls for social media users to post a photo of what they looked like a decade ago next to what they look like now.

The theory suggests that a company could harvest this data and use it to advance facial recognition technology to factor in aging. The photos or data could also be included in a database that could be sold to other companies.

Yes, you could argue that the social networks already have your old photos, but the problem is many people upload their photos out of order. Even if a profile photo was recently uploaded, it doesn’t mean it is a recent photo.

But now, thanks to this challenge, the internet knows what you look like 10 years apart. These past and present photos could be put into an algorithm to help identify your face for years to come and potentially even predict what you’ll look like.

In an opinion piece for Wired Magazine, writer Kate O’Neil argues that “even if this particular meme isn't a case of social engineering, the past few years have been rife with examples of social games and memes designed to extract and collect data.”

O’Neil says the age progression technology could be used for good. For instance, helping find and identify children who have gone missing for years. Or it could be used for bad. For instance, a health insurance company could determine you appear to be aging too quickly and thus not as healthy, causing them to increase the cost of your insurance.

Overall, O’Neil says “we need to approach our interactions with technology mindful of the data we generate and how it can be used at scale.”

So what do you think? Is the 10 Year Challenge harmless fun or part of something bigger? Let us know on the KHOU 11 Facebook page.

On the web: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-10-year-meme-challenge/