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Does Facial Recognition Violate Privacy?

As facial recognition technology continues to advance, the debate over privacy and unregulated surveillance is reaching a boiling point. Does facial recognition violate privacy? It all boils down to obtaining appropriate user consent. Surprisingly, there are currently no federal laws regulating the use of facial recognition or other biometric identifiers. However, some states, like Illinois and Texas have laws in place until federal privacy safeguards are established.


Companies are currently not required to get your permission before they use facial recognition technology on you.


And some companies like Facebook may have already violated state regulations safeguarding facial recognition and privacy. Lawsuits filed against Facebook allege the company is violating BIPA because it takes  face scans without written prior consent.


Consider the Biometric Information Privacy Act which makes it illegal to collect and store face sans without obtaining informed written consent. The law also made it illegal for companies to sell, lease, or otherwise profit from a customer’s biometric information. In fact, early on Facebook began using facial recognition technology on every uploaded image. According to a recent New York Times report, Facebook’s use of facial recognition to pick your  face out of photos has a handful of civil rights organization up in arms. Using artificial intelligence and its own proprietary algorithm, Facebook already knows your face as well as your friends.  


According to a Facebook statement, “Face recognition technology allows us to help protect you from a stranger using your photo to impersonate you.”  Face recognition works by scanning faces of unnamed people in photos or videos and then matching codes of their facial patterns to those in a database of named people. Facebook has said that users are in charge of that process, telling them: “You control face recognition.”  


However, opponents like Theresa Payton, disagree. “Despite their past year of controversy, Facebook is continuing to force privacy-breaching facial recognition technology onto their users”, says Payton.  Facebook and regulators are engaged in a war over privacy, and the platform’s over 200 million US users will be the ones who feel the impact.  


This is an unfair and misleading use of user data.  Facebook’s scanning of photos for facial recognition data improves their monetization algorithms at the expense of privacy.


“You are not going to get a new face,” said Peyton. “This is cool technology, but why don’t we all take a step back and talk about the uses and applications of that technology and play out future security and privacy concerns?”  Furthermore, the fight over privacy protection will impact every user, and US policy needs to preempt the fallout.  If Facebook continues to mislead users, the FTC will need to expand its rules against deceptive privacy practices to adapt, says Payton.


 It’s not hard to imagine a day when biometrics are routinely used for employment or loan applications. If your face was then stolen, that could be incredibly problematic. But that could not happen, right?


Interested in emerging technology topics like biometrics and privacy? Join us at Mobile Payments Conference 2018 to future-proof your business and career.