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October 31, 2012

FTC Report Recommends Best Practices in Facial Recognition Technology Usage

By Shamila Janakiraman, TMCnet Contributor

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) released a staff report to help companies protect consumers’ privacy as they leverage facial recognition technologies to develop new commercial products and services.

The report, titled, “Facing Facts: Best Practices for Common Uses of Facial Recognition Technologies,” will cover all uses of facial recognition technologies whether in online social networks, mobile apps or in digital signage.

This biometric technology can be used to find an individual’s age range and gender which will help in the delivery of targeted advertising besides allowing the assessment of viewers’ emotions to decipher their activity. It also helps in identifying anonymous individuals in pictures using facial recognition.

These uses may infringe on a person’s privacy as it will identify otherwise anonymous individuals in public which may be misused leading to security issues.

“The commercial use of facial recognition technologies is still young. This creates a unique opportunity to ensure that as this industry grows, it does so in a way that respects the privacy interests of consumers while preserving the beneficial uses the technology has to offer,” said the report.

In order to control the use of facial recognition technologies, the FTC staff report guides companies to design their services with consumer privacy in mind; develop reasonable security protections for the information they collect, and have a methodology to find which information to keep and how and when to dispose of it with due consideration for the sensitivity of the information.

Social networks that have incorporated facial recognition features have to enlighten consumers on how the feature works, what data it collects and the usage of the data besides providing a choice to opt out of allowing biometric data to be collected and used for facial recognition. Users should be able to turn off the feature and also permanently delete all biometric data previously collected. The report also controls the usage of biometric information in any way without the consumer’s permission.

Recently, facial recognition technology used during the presidential debates has found that President Barack Obama performed better in the second debate held at Hofstra University than the first one. Obama seemed to be more confident, showed a wider range of emotions and made a stronger emotional connection with the audience. The findings are based on a commercial software program called Face Reader which follows some 400 muscles on a human face to monitor emotions.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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