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More voices on facial recognition heading for the FTC

More voices on facial recognition heading for the FTC

It looks like the Federal Trade Commission will be fully staffed relatively soon, despite threats by some Senate Republicans to hold the nomination as a way of expressing their displeasure with the nominee.

That nominee, Alvaro Bedoya, has displayed a nuanced attitude toward the use of facial recognition in his career and before the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week.

(He would be joining the FTC with five newly appointed staffers, three of whom have experience with AI and facial recognition.)

Much has been made of the fact that Bedoya, the founding director of Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology and a President Joe Biden nominee, will tilt the commission toward more regulatory action.

But all current commissioners attended last week’s hearing on Bedoya’s appointment, including those appointed by Republican presidents. That was seen as a show of support by the commissioners, according to a blog post by Kelly Drye, a law firm specializing in privacy and consumer protection.

And the angle of attack by some senators on the committee focused on some of Bedoya’s social media posts rather than his regulatory philosophy. Some might view them as snarky, but skeptics at the hearing felt they were extremist.

Democrats have the votes on the committee and in the Senate to approve his appointment, holds notwithstanding.

A brief scorecard-like readout of the proceedings by The National Law Review, noted Bedoya’s intention to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, opening protection to teenagers for the first time.

The Law Review and others have reported on how the nominee sees an important need for facial recognition, especially for authentication and health care uses.

Kelly Drye sees Bedoya as an eager regulator when it comes to deliberately hidden face biometrics, unlimited use and sharing of data or facial recognition that occurs without consent.

Also last week, the FTC named five new advisors to its staff. Three of them are affiliated with the AI Now Institute and seen as having expertise in face biometrics.

Amba Kak, who comes from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. She serves as policy director at the AI Now Institute. In announcing the hire, the FTC said its newest senior advisor on AI has researched topics including biometric regulation and algorithmic accountability.

Meredith Whittaker is also a new senior advisor on AI to the commissioners. Whittaker came from the Tandon School of Engineering, too. She is a co-founder of the AI Now Institute, and has researched many topics, including the political economy of AI.

Last, Sarah Myers West was hired to be an AI advisor. As with the previous two new hires, West is coming from the Tandon School. She has looked at where technology, labor and software platforms intersect.

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