Privacy advocates quit corporate facial-recognition talks
17 June 2015 15:16 GMT

Representatives from privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Center for Democracy and Technology have quit talks on a voluntary code of conduct for companies using facial recognition being overseen by the Department of Commerce (DoC).

In February 2014, the DoC’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration (a division launched a group consistin of industry representatives and privacy advocates that aimed to write a voluntary code of conduct for companies that use facial recognition technology.

However, on Monday the privacy groups said the process wasn’t working:

“At this point, we do not believe that the NTIA process is likely to yield a set of privacy rules that offers adequate protections for the use of facial recognition technology. We are convinced that in many contexts, facial recognition of consumers should only occur when an individual has affirmatively decided to allow it to occur.

In recent NTIA meetings however, industry stakeholders were unable to agree on any concrete scenario where companies should employ facial recognition only with a consumer’s permission.”

The groups complained that companies want to create situations whereby they “never need to ask permission to use biometric identification”, and said that this is at odds with consumer expectations, current industry practices, as well as existing state law.

“We hope that our withdrawal signals the need to reevaluate the effectiveness of multistakeholder processes in developing effective rules of the road that protect consumer privacy –and that companies will support and implement.”

President Barack Obama revealed plans in July to put the NTIA, part of the Commerce Department, in charge of developing privacy guidelines. Other key issues were parties establishing and maintaining appropriate retention and disposal practices for the facial recognition data that they collect.  

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