The Federal Trade Commission warns of misuse of biometric information and harm to consumers

Today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning that the increasing use of consumers’ vital information and related technologies, including those powered by machine learning, raises significant concerns about consumer privacy, data security, and the potential for bias and discrimination.

Biometric information refers to data that depicts or describes physical, biological, behavioral traits, characteristics, or measurements of or relating to the body of an identified or identifiable person.

“In recent years, biometric surveillance has grown more sophisticated and pervasive, posing new threats to privacy and civil rights,” said Samuel Levine, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Consumer Protection. Today’s policy statement makes clear that companies must comply with the law regardless of the technology they use.

In the policy statement, The commission said the agency was committed to combating unfair or deceptive business and practices related to the collection and use of vital consumer information and the marketing and use of biometric information technologies.

Recent years have seen the spread of biometric information technologies. For example, facial, iris or fingerprint recognition technologies collect and process biometric information to identify individuals. Other bioinformatics technologies use or claim to use biometric information in order to identify characteristics of individuals, ranging from individuals’ age, gender, or ethnicity to individuals’ personality traits, abilities, or behaviour.

Consumers face new and increasing risks associated with the collection and use of biometric information. For example, the use of bioinformatics technologies to identify consumers in certain locations may result in the disclosure of sensitive personal information about them, such as whether they have obtained certain types of health care, attended religious services, or attended political or union meetings. Large databases of biometric information can also be attractive targets for malicious actors who may misuse this information. In addition, some technologies that use biometric information, such as facial recognition technology, may have higher error rates for certain population groups.

In recent years, the FTC has taken enforcement action against photo app maker Everalbum and Facebookaccused them Misrepresenting their uses of facial recognition technology. The FTC also released a report on facial recognition in 2012 that recommended best practices for protecting consumers’ privacy.

Today’s policy statement warns that false or unsubstantiated claims about the accuracy or effectiveness of biometric information technologies or about the collection and use of biometric information may violate FTC law. The policy statement also notes that it will consider several factors in determining whether a company’s use of biometric information or biometric information technology could be unfair in violation of FTC law including:

  • failure to assess anticipated harms to consumers prior to collection of biometric information;
  • Failing to promptly address known or anticipated risks and identify and implement tools to reduce or eliminate such risks;
  • engage in the collection or use of confidential and unexpected biometric information;
  • not evaluate the practices and capabilities of third parties, including affiliated companies, Vendors and end users, who will be given access to biometric information of consumers or will be tasked with operating biometric information technologies;
  • Failure to provide appropriate training to the employees and contractors whose job duties you assume Including interacting with biometric information or technologies that use such information Information; And
  • Not conducting continuous monitoring of technologies developed by the business, Offers for sale, or uses, regarding biometric information to ensure that The technologies are working as expected and the technologies are not likely to harm consumers

The committee voted 3-0 During an open committee meeting to adopt the policy statement.

Among the FTC employees who have worked on the matter are Robin Wetherill and Amanda Colossias.

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