(Credit: Master1305/iStockphoto)

There's always a new trend or gimmick on Facebook or Instagram. Users might remember the 7-day black and white photo challenge on Instagram, asking your friends to describe you in a gif, describing yourself in three fictional characters and most recently, the "How Hard Has Aging Hit You" challenge.

Also known as the 10 Year Challenge, users on Facebook or Instagram post the most recent picture of themselves next to a photo from 10 years ago.

Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, Kate O'Neill, founder of KO Insights, questioned what Facebook could do with this data. In a tweet, O'Neill said she wondered how the aging meme data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and recognition.

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Even though Facebook could access profile picture data if it wanted to, O'Neill said that the parameters for the challenge would simply make it easier to collect data. Most of the statuses circulating on the social media site stipulated the photos to be 10 years apart or to post your first profile photo next to your most recent.

Users don't always upload photos chronologically or of their faces. Odds are more than a few people on your Friends List may have a pet, a place or text set as their profile picture.

Additionally, even if Facebook were to search for the data on its own, the photo posting date, wouldn't necessarily match when the photo was originally taken. Having a neat set of photos to parse through, clearly labeled "2009 vs. 2019," for example, makes curating a large dataset much easier.

A Facebook spokesperson told O'Neill that the meme was user-generated and the social media site didn't start the trend. And, of course, the meme has spread to other social networks as well. And we should also concerned about other types of companies or agencies mining all of this data to train facial recognition systems.

Regardless of the 10 Year Challenge's origins, it's important to be cautious about how we use social media and smartphone apps. Facebook's data privacy practices have been under scrutiny since the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And what seems like every month, apps we thought we could trust are accused of click fraud, selling data to third parties or being malware.

"It's worth considering the depth and breadth of the personal data we share without reservations," O'Neill said in a Wired editorial.

One of the things Facebook cares about the most, of course, is simply be driving engagement.

"A much simpler explanation is that they just want you to log in and go on a nostalgia trip," another Twitter user said.

The theory makes sense. It might take some time to scroll back through your photos to find a photo from 10 years ago that's not too embarrassing to post, but also shows you look better now. While you're scrolling, odds are you'll come across other images and dive into an old album or check up on a friend from high school.

After you post your comparison photos, you'll probably be checking in to see if people think you've aged well and to see your friends' posts.

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  1. Facebook's viral aging meme data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and recognition.
  2. The social media site could also be using the 10 Year Challenge to drive engagement by sending users on a nostalgia trip.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.