Privacy Concerns Derail Biometrics Standards Group

Privacy Concerns Derail Biometrics Standards GroupA cross-industry working group tasked with developing a code of conduct for retailers and marketers interested in using facial recognition technology is breaking down over privacy concerns.

The group was led by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Association, and brought together not only marketers and merchants but also privacy advocates to try to determine some voluntary standards the industry could adopt. But last night, the privacy advocates – which included individuals representing the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union – all withdrew in protest.

The dissenters issued a statement indicating that the private business interests involved refused to agree to implement a standard of customer consent in their collection of biometric data. “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 group wrote. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise.”

The privacy advocates’ concerns have apparently been deepening as biometric technology has advanced to allow for deployments such as in-store facial recognition systems that can identify customers’ demographic data, allowing for custom-tailored marketing efforts. While many may share concerns about the dystopian possibilities of such technologies, finding a balance between data collection and privacy is ultimately in businesses’ best interest as well; we’re already seeing how perceived overreach in biometric data collection is landing some major organizations in legal trouble, and those kinds of issues are likely to intensify as the technology becomes more widespread. As such, the breaking up of the NTIA-led group is bad news for all stakeholders, businesses and consumers alike.

Source: The Verge

June 16, 2015 – by Alex Perala