Technology industry lobbyists have so thoroughly hijacked the Commerce Department process for developing a voluntary code of conduct for the use of facial recognition technology that nine privacy advocates involved withdrew in protest on Monday.
“At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement — and identifying them by name — using facial recognition technology,” the privacy advocates wrote in a joint statement. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise.”
The Commerce Department, through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration, brought together “representatives from technology companies, trade groups, consumer groups, academic institutions and other organizations” early last year “to kick off an effort to craft privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology.”
The goal was “to develop a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct that specifies how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies to facial recognition technology in the commercial context.”
But after a dozen meetings, the most recent of which was last week, all nine privacy advocates who have participated in the entire process concluded that they were totally outgunned.
“This should be a wake-up call to Americans: Industry lobbyists are choking off Washington’s ability to protect consumer privacy,” Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, said in a statement.
“People simply do not expect companies they’ve never heard of to secretly track them using this powerful technology. Despite all of this, industry associations have pushed for a world where companies can use facial recognition on you whenever they want — no matter what you say. This position is well outside the mainstream.”
Ben Sobel, a researcher and Google Policy Fellow at the Center on Privacy & Technology, wrote last week for the Washington Post about the extraordinary advances in facial recognition technology that have gone largely unnoticed by the public. “Being anonymous in public might be a thing of the past,” he wrote.
He noted that while there are no federal laws that specifically govern the use of facial recognition technology, some states do. “Both Illinois and Texas have laws against using such technology to identify people without their informed consent. That means that one out of every eight Americans currently has a legal right to biometric privacy,” he wrote.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
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