Opinion: It's time for an about-face on facial recognition

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
June 22, 2015

Co-authored with Evan Selinger. 

Until recently, concerns over facial recognition technologies were largely theoretical. Only a few companies could create databases of names and faces large enough to identify significant portions of the population by sight. These companies had little motivation to widely exploit this technology in invasive ways.

Unfortunately, things are changing – and fast. The tech industry appears poised to introduce new facial recognition products and does not seem to take seriously concerns over personal identification. In addition to downplaying the important role biometrics play in modern data security schemes, industry is ignoring the importance of maintaining obscurity in our day-to-day lives.      

Nine public interest groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently walked away from multistakeholder talks over what should go into a voluntary code of conduct that places restrictions on facial recognition software. Through the backing of the Commerce Department, these talks have been occurring since 2014, and are an outgrowth of the blueprint agenda put forth by the Obama administration’s 2012 Consumer Bill of Rights and its more recent discussion draft of a consumer privacy protection bill.

Read the full op-ed at The Christian Science Monitor