NTIA To Tackle Facial Recognition Software

Will Be Next Topic for Guidelines on Protecting Consumer Privacy Rights in Digital Age

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has decided to tackle facial recognition technology next in its effort to get stakeholders to agree to guidelines for protecting online privacy.

The first multistakeholder meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 6, 2014.

"Facial recognition technology has the potential to improve services for consumers, support innovation by businesses, and affect identification and authentication online and offline," said NTIA chief Lawrence Strickling in announcing the next phase. "However, the technology poses distinct consumer privacy challenges.  Digital images are increasingly available, and the importance of securing faceprints and ensuring consumers’ appropriate control over their data is clear.  For this new multistakeholder process, discussions could include an examination of the privacy risks associated with the use of photo databases in stores and other commercial settings and face prints as a unique biometric identifier."

NTIA is charged with overseeing a multistakeholder process to come up with guidelines to implement the Obama administration's voluntary consumer privacy bill of rights.

The first product of that process was the draft of a mobile app code of conduct issued last summer. The code essentially directs app developers and publishers to provide consumers with short-form notices, in multiple languages where appropriate, on how information is collected and shared by the app.

So far, the process has been contentious, with complaints from both public interest and industry players. Online publishers supported the code, but some public interest groups abstained and the Digital Marketing Association suggested that in the future, industry stakeholders should draft any code they will have to consider adopting, with the multistakeholder meetings providing the opportunity for others, which would include public advocacy groups, to comment on the draft and decide whether or not they will support it.