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FTC considers looking into commercial use of online biometric surveillance

FTC considers looking into commercial use of online biometric surveillance

Almost all discussion in the United States about facial recognition systems centers on government use and, more pointedly, on police use. But federal regulator the Federal Trade Commission is looking at commercial use of data.

The agency is examining its options as it tries to stay ahead of algorithm deployments and “lax data security” on the part of businesses. A fact sheet on proposed rule-making does not mention facial recognition explicitly, but does refer to companies attempting to predict and make inferences about user behavior.

The FTC has called for public input into what has become mass private-sector surveillance, which its members say, can result in data breaches and deception. The biometric spying could also lead businessowners to discriminate against people based on a seemingly endless list of personal factors.

The advance notice of proposed rulemaking itself asks how companies collect biometric data from consumers, what kinds of biometrics they collect and for what purposes. They also want to know if consumers are typically aware of that collection and use, and attendant benefits and harms.

Further, the Commission asks if it should “consider limiting commercial surveillance practices that use or facilitate the use of facial recognition, fingerprinting, or other biometric technologies? If so, how?”

An online public forum will be held September 8 at which people can share their concerns. The deadline for responding in writing is 60 days after notice of the matter is posted in the Federal Register, which is expected in the next week.

The agency already has fired a shot across the bow of anyone wanted to sell personal reproductive data, and signaled closer scrutiny of facial recognition training data.

And the legislative branch has commercial concerns as well. Some senators have asked the FTC to prove ID.me after it reportedly misled the government about its facial recognition service.

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