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October 24, 2012

FTC Advises Best Practices for Using Facial Recognition Technologies

By Daniel Brecht, Contributing Writer

A highly accurate and reliable security technology used to identify the individuality of a human face is biometric facial recognition. This is a popular authentication technique that can ensure users are who they claim to be.

A facial recognition system works by analyzing the characteristics of a person's facial image; it captures data recorded from nodal points on a digital face image.

There are several uses for a facial recognition system; they can be used for verification purposes, to serve as access control for sensitive areas, and can be seen in some homes for use as a motion-controlled gaming system (such as for Nintendo's Wii console).

Basically, the technology uses a biometric device and recognition software to store information about that person’s facial characteristics and capture physical features and behavioral traits from either a camera (to match a face and identify anonymous individuals in photographs or videos) or an accelerometer (to detect movement or acceleration).

There are many benefits to using facial recognition, but not everyone has accepted the technology as privacy concerns have stifled its expansion.

Image via Shutterstock

There are those, however, who have made this technology the choice for the future of authentication.

With an increasing number of companies adopting facial recognition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) has released its “Facing Facts” staff report which offers recommendations on best practices for using the technology.

Use of facial recognition technologies is advised in the report; many panelists and commenters agreed companies should implement privacy protections – from the detection to the authentication process. They also recommend that companies increase the transparency of their data practices, develop security precautions for the information collected, and increase consumer education about the use of such technology.

Other FTC best practices mentioned in the staff report concern the importance of making it clear when the technology is being used – by whom and for what reason data about users is being collected. The FTC especially recommends not to use facial recognition without obtaining the consumer’s affirmative consent first, or to use such a device to identify anonymous images of someone who could not otherwise be identified.

Lastly, once obtaining consent before using consumers’ images, the biometric data should not be used in a different way than the reason for which it was collected.  

For those interested in knowing more of the recommended best practices contained in the report, seeing results of the Commission’s vote or seeing what the Commissioner had commented to the staff report in his statement, visit the FTC website.

Edited by Braden Becker
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