Stakeholders Developing Voluntary Code of Conduct for Use of Facial Recognition Technology

As millions around the world will tune in to watch the 2014 Winter Olympics in the coming weeks, the prestigious competition’s host country, Russia, is employing innovative technology to do some crucial watching of its own.  With high concerns regarding the possibility of security breaches leading up to the start of this year’s games, the city of Sochi has developed several efforts to make sure this season’s Olympic games progress as smoothly as possible. The Sochi International Airport is doing its best, for example, to protect this year’s host city with the use of facial recognition technology developed by Silicon Valley’s Artec Group.

Sochi International Airport is not alone. Many Facebook Users temporarily witnessed one of the many uses of commercial facial recognition technology.   Due to privacy concerns involving the innovative technology’s growth, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) recently held a meeting to discuss a voluntary code of conduct for the commercial use of facial recognition technology.  The February meeting was the first of several that will take place in the coming months until June 2014.

The discussions generally aim to develop a code of conduct that will address how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights should be applied to facial recognition technology and how to “best to ensure that consumers’ rights to control, transparency, security, access and accuracy, focused collection, and accountability are respected within the context of current and emerging commercial uses of facial recognition technology.”

The discussions generally aim to develop a code of conduct that will address how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights should be applied to facial recognition technology and how to “best to ensure that consumers’ rights to control, transparency, security, access and accuracy, focused collection, and accountability are respected within the context of current and emerging commercial uses of facial recognition technology.” The Bill of Rights aims to further the Fair Information Practice Principals (FIPPs), a framework consisting of standards in evaluating privacy concerns associated with systems, processes and programs, by informing consumers of what is to be expected of companies that handle personal data and emphasizing the FIPP’s adoption.

The current privacy discussions of facial recognition technology come almost two years after the White House presented its “Privacy Blueprint,” an initiative including principals aimed at applying the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to various types of business frameworks.  The Privacy Blueprint also encompassed a multistakeholder process for the development of legally enforceable codes. In announcing the multistakeholder meetings, NTIA notes current issues with facial recognition technology include transparency, protecting sensitive data, and implementing controls for consumers.

Some sources have suggested the facial recognition could become fully integrated into airport security by 2025. On the premise that “increased commercial use of facial recognition threatens a fundamental understanding of the right to privacy the ability of individuals to decide when to disclose their actual identity to others,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently urged NTIA to “require[] companies collecting, handling, storing, and transmitting such data to adhere to the Fair Information Practices.”

In the first meeting, NTIA’s objective was simply to provide stakeholders with a general background on privacy issues relating to how facial recognition technology is currently being used and could potentially be used in the future.  The next stakeholder meeting, which is to take place in the next couple of weeks, will include the beginning discussions of a code of conduct.  The meeting will also focus on constructing a plan for creating such a code.