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FTC takes aim at facial recognition security; privacy issues

Facial recognition technology on the rise as governments increase use; Facebook, Microsoft implement it

By Layer 8 on Tue, 09/20/11 - 10:16am.

The Federal Trade Commission the week said it will hold a workshop that examines how burgeoning use of facial recognition technology impacts privacy and security.

From the FTC: "Facial recognition technology has been adopted in a variety of new contexts, ranging from online social networks to digital signs and mobile apps. Its increased use has raised a variety of privacy concerns. The FTC workshop will gather consumer protection organizations, academics, business and industry representatives, privacy professionals, and others to examine the use of facial recognition technology and related privacy and security concerns."

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The agency said the workshop will look at many topics including:

  • What are the current and future uses of facial recognition technology?
  • How can consumers benefit from the technology?
  • What are the privacy and security concerns surrounding the adoption of the technology; for example, have consumers consented to the collection and use of their images?
  • Are there special considerations for the use of this technology on or by children and teens?
  • What legal protections currently exist for consumers regarding the use of the technology, both in the United States and internationally?
  • What consumer protections should be provided?

The workshop will take place in Washington, DC on December 8, 2011 is free and open to the public.

Use of face recognition technology is growing fast.  One of its biggest pushes could come in the form of Microsoft's Windows 8.  Network World recently wrote that the software giant  is building facial recognition technology into Windows 8, offering a more secure way to access your computer.

This month the U.K.'s largest airport, Heathrow, will install facial recognition scanners for international and domestic passengers to prevent illegal immigration in the country, the IDG News Service reported.  The facial recognition technology comes from Aurora Computer Services, a U.K. based company. It's called the Aurora Image Recognition (AIR) system and uses a camera with an infrared flash, which the company says can function in either bright or low light. It can identity a person from about three feet away. The camera verifies a person's identity using biometric details, identifying a person in 4.7 seconds, a time that includes properly positioning a passenger, according to Aurora.

And facial recognition technology has raised privacy concerns.  Recently Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen expressed concern that Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" face recognition feature compromises consumer privacy, and asked for a meeting with company officials.

According to an IDG News Service story: In Facebook's desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection, which is an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent before Facebook can use those images, Jepsen wrote in a letter this week to Facebook's director of public policy and its product and regulatory counsel.  Jepsen joins European Union (EU) regulators and consumer advocacy groups that are questioning the feature on Facebook.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and three other advocacy groups filed a complaint asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require Facebook to get affirmative opt-in consent from users before collecting and using their biometric data.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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