FTC releases best practice guidelines for facial recognition

October 24, 2012 - 

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has released a best practices report concerning the common uses of facial recognition technologies for the increasing number of companies using facial recognition technologies. The report is designed to help protect consumers’ privacy as firms begin to use the facial recognition technologies to create innovative new commercial products and services.

The FTC report recommends that companies using facial recognition technologies design their services with consumer privacy in mind. The report also recommends that firms develop reasonable security protections for the information they collect, and sound methods for determining when to keep information and when to dispose of it. The FTC also expects companies to consider the sensitivity of information when developing their facial recognition products and services. As an example, digital signs using facial recognition technologies should not be set up in places where children congregate.

The report also recommends that companies take steps to make sure consumers are aware of facial recognition technologies when they come in contact with them, and that they have a choice as to whether data about them is collected. So, for example, if a company is using digital signs to determine the demographic features of passers-by such as age or gender, they should provide clear notice to consumers that the technology is in use before consumers come into contact with the signs.

Finally, the report states, there are at least two scenarios in which companies should get consumers’ affirmative consent before collecting or using biometric data from facial images. First, they should obtain consent before using consumers’ images or any biometric data in a different way than they represented when they collected the data. Second, companies should not use facial recognition to identify anonymous images of a consumer to someone who could not otherwise identify him or her, without obtaining the consumer’s affirmative consent first.

“Fortunately, the commercial use of facial recognition technologies is still young. This creates a unique opportunity to ensure that as this industry grows, it does so in a way that respects the privacy interests of consumers while preserving the beneficial uses the technology has to offer,” the FTC staff report states.

Facial recognition technologies have been adopted in a variety of contexts, ranging from online social networks and mobile apps to digital signs, the FTC report states. They have a number of potential uses, such as determining an individual’s age range and gender in order to deliver targeted advertising; assessing viewers’ emotions to see if they are engaged in a video game or a movie; or matching faces and identifying anonymous individuals in images.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.