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U.S. Senate to examine privacy and facial recognition technology


On Wednesday, July 18, Senator Al Franken, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, will examine the privacy issues surrounding facial recognition technology, in a hearing titled: “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties.”

Sen. Franken has voiced concern about lack of privacy protections on Facebook in its tagging feature. By acquiring the Israeli company Face.com, Facebook has strengthened its facial recognition capabilities. The technology can also be used to verify a person’s identity or to scan persons in crowds.

In a statement to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Sen. Franken said that: “a back of the envelope calculation suggests that Facebook could easily have a face print for one out of every 20 people on the planet.”

But the hearing will not focus only on social networking or Facebook’s use of facial recognition. It will also look at the use of facial recognition technology by police and departments of motor vehicles across the United States.

“The dimensions of our faces are as unique to us as our fingerprints,” Franken said. “And right now technology exists that gives the government and companies the ability to figure out your name and other personal information about you with nothing more than a photograph. I’m holding a hearing in my subcommittee to find out what this new technology means for our privacy and if our current laws are doing enough to protect Americans.”

Testifying at the Senate hearing will be: Jerome M. Pender, Deputy Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection; Sheriff Larry Amerson, president of the National Sheriff’s Association; Rob Sherman, Facebook’s Manager of Privacy and Public Policy; and, Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Is Senator Franken justified in holding a hearing on privacy implications using facial recognition technology?

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