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    FTC Seeks Public Comment on Facial Recognition Technology

    There have been increasing privacy and civil liberty questions raised as the use facial recognition technology has increased in companies’ advertising and criminal investigations. As identification technology becomes cheaper and more prevalent, it could easily unmask people and track their movements. Those who were previously part of the unnamed crowd could be singled out for identification.

    I’ve discussed before the increasing use of facial recognition technology in advertising, especially in “digital signage.” Most people have heard of the term connected with billboards or other screens that have cameras (and facial-recognition technology) to watch people watching ads in order to improve their marketing. The digital signs log data such as gender, approximate age and how long someone looks at an advertisement. This is supposed to help build a better billboard — one that is tailored specifically to the individual standing in front of it. However, the data-gathering and surveillance practices raise substantial privacy questions. (Disclosure: The Center for Democracy and Technology has released a set of privacy guidelines for digital signage, which I consulted on and contributed to, in the report “Building the Digital Out-Of-Home Privacy Infrastructure.”)

    There are also civil liberty questions of government use of the technology. See this previous post for a discussion about the First Amendment right to free speech and how widespread identification technologies can affect that. More of my thoughts on facial recognition in this older GCN interview.

    The Federal Trade Commission, which recently held a workshop of facial recognition technology, is now seeking public comment about the use of this biometric technology. The deadline for filing is Jan. 31. Here’s more from the FTC press release:

    Facial detection and recognition technologies have been adopted in a variety of new contexts, ranging from online social networks to digital signs and mobile apps. Their increased use has raised a variety of privacy concerns. To further the Commission’s understanding of the issues, the Federal Trade Commission staff seeks public comments on issues raised at the workshop, including but not limited to:

    • What are the current and future commercial uses of these technologies?
    • How can consumers benefit from the use of these technologies?
    • What are the privacy and security concerns surrounding the adoption of these technologies, and how do they vary depending on how the technologies are implemented?
    • Are there special considerations that should be given for the use of these technologies on or by populations that may be particularly vulnerable, such as children?
    • What are best practices for providing consumers with notice and choice regarding the use of these technologies?
    • Are there situations where notice and choice are not necessary? By contrast, are there contexts or places where these technologies should not be deployed, even with notice and choice?
    • Is notice and choice the best framework for dealing with the privacy concerns surrounding these technologies, or would other solutions be a better fit? If so, what are they?
    • What are best practices for developing and deploying these technologies in a way that protects consumer privacy?

    Possibly related posts:

    5 Responses to “FTC Seeks Public Comment on Facial Recognition Technology”

    1. Anonymous Says:

      The technology in and of itself is important, and has many potential legitimate uses and applications. But as with many other technologies, tools, and weapons, this technology could be easily abused by a government or corporation.

    2. Renee Jones Says:

      You don’t even ask the most important question: what is the error rate and how does one escape the consequences of these errors?

    3. Lili Fugit Says:

      » Are there situations where notice and choice are not necessary? By contrast, are there contexts or places where these technologies should not be deployed, even with notice and choice?

      First part of the question, no. Second part, of course. Public restrooms readily spring to mind.

      » What are the privacy and security concerns surrounding the adoption of these technologies, and how do they vary depending on how the technologies are implemented?

      In the brave new world of social media no one is supposed to care, apparently, about things like, say, horrible family members displaying your pictures all over a website you don’t even use (*cough cough facebook*), whereupon they or others can now use biometrics (allegedly– cuz like Renee Jones asked, what is the error rate? You know there is one.) to identify you (or someone like you) and sabotage your privacy, possibly get you fired from a job because employers can do that for any reason at all, allow someone who stalked you to find you or contact people who don’t have your best interests at heart, etc.

      » What are best practices for developing and deploying these technologies in a way that protects consumer privacy?

      Screw this “consumer” crap. I’m a person, a citizen, and a human being, not some faceless dumb “consumer”. This is about civil liberties, basic privacy, protecting one’s own identity. I own Myself, no one else does. There is no good way to develop and deploy technology like this.

    4. Tweets that mention Privacy Lives » Blog Archive » FTC Seeks Public Comment on Facial Recognition Technology Says:

      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by privacyfocused, nymphosec, lynettetowens, exxortech, privacyactivism, hellrazr, stoprealidnow, civicattitude, and kid4meus. kid4meus said: [...]

    5. Anonymous Says:

      horrible idea. horrible technology. there’s no need for it. we can be so safe that we stay in a prison with all the other safe people. this type of safety is an unnecessary lack of freedom

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