The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

Senate Hearing Addresses Privacy Implications of Facial Recognition Technology

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On July 19, 2012, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, held a hearing entitled “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties”.  Individuals from academia, industry, and federal agencies examined the use of facial recognition technology and its potential impact on privacy and civil liberties. 

Social media giant Facebook has been the impetus behind the facial recognition movement.  In 2010, Facebook acquired the licensing to create unique “face prints” for its nearly 800 million users – without their knowledge or consent – in a program called “tag suggestions.”  Outside of social media, companies are increasingly relying on facial recognition technology to gauge viewer response to video content, confirm user identities at ATMs, and identify consumer trends for brand loyalty and rewards programs.

In line with the privacy principles articulated in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) March 2012 Privacy Report, panelists discussed the need for transparency in facial recognition technology use and opt-in requirements for these services.  In particular, panelists disagreed on the extent to which conventional opt-in requirements should be applied in the facial recognition context.  In his staunch opposition, FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch testified that a rigorous cost-benefit analysis should be conducted before the FTC embraces an opt-in requirement and imposes “best practices” for facial recognition services on the grounds of potential misuse. 

Despite Commissioner Rosch’s dissent, the FTC is said to release a report later this year setting forth recommended best practices and the extent to which “affirmative express consent” will be required for the collection and use of data made available through facial recognition technology. 

Written with assistance by Jalyce Mangum. 

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Author: ABA Antitrust

Learn more about the ABA Section of Antitrust Law: http://ambar.org/antitrust

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