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June 18, 2015

18 June 2015

Privacy advocates abandon Commerce Department multistakeholder process on facial recognition technology code of conduct

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), housed within the U.S. Commerce Department, has been facilitating a multistakeholder process to develop privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology since December of 2013—with the first in person meeting held in February 2014.  NTIA seeks to create a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct applying the administration’s privacy framework, including its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, to facial recognition technology in a commercial context.   After a little over a year in talks, and shortly after the NTIA’s 12th meeting, the process has broken down.  On Monday, June 15, a joint statement signed by representatives of multiple privacy advocacy groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog and the ACLU, declared that they “have decided to withdraw from further negotiations” because the process has been unable to elicit agreement “on any concrete scenario where companies should employ facial recognition only with a consumer’s permission.”  The joint statement further argues that “[t]he position that companies never need to ask permission to use biometric identification is at odds with consumer expectations, current industry practices, as well as existing state law.”

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