Carl Szabo, a lawyer with NetChoice — a tech industry group that represents companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo — was also in attendance. He thinks consent might well be a non-starter for consumers. From the industry’s perspective, requiring permission at every step of the process — from the gathering of facial images online to the use of camera systems — would prove too cumbersome.
“We don’t know if consumers want a pop-up notice every time they upload a photograph to a service, or if consumers want to sign a form every time they enter a store,” he told VICE News.
Szabo also suspects that privacy advocates are gunning for an outright ban on facial recognition technology. “Some people may want to make this technology illegal before it has a chance to grow,” he said. Though he acknowledged that balancing privacy and progress is a challenge, he expressed confidence that the tech industry is committed to giving consumers “meaningful control” over their faceprints.
“We recognize the creepy, but we don’t want to stifle innovation,” he remarked. “If we cross that line from cool to creepy, people will stop using that service.”
Szabo and the companies he represents predict that privacy concerns will fade as consumers begin to understand the benefits of the new technology. “Imagine you walk into a Nordstroms, a camera scans your face, recognizes you, and knows what shirt you bought on your last visit,” he said. “Then, the salesperson can recommend a matching tie — that’s just good customer service.”
E-commerce trade association NetChoice says it is seeing progress in government negotiations about the use of facial recognition technology despite the recent departure of several key players.
NetChoice is one of at least two trade groups taking part in discussions led by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration to craft voluntary standards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology.
NetChoice, an association of eCommerce businesses and online consumers, called last week’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s facial recognition meeting “extremely productive”, according to a report by Broadcasting & Cable.
Industry advocates, such as Carl Szabo, policy counsel at online advertising trade group NetChoice, say that more transparency should be enough to alleviate much of the privacy concerns raised by consumer groups. “Once people know facial recognition technology is being used, they can react,” he said. Transparency requirements would also give groups like the GAO more insight into how exactly the tech is being used, Szabo said.
But Szabo argued that express consent doesn’t always make sense for the way that facial recognition tech might be used. If someone has a facial recognition system with a camera to verify the identities of employees entering a secure work place, he argued, the system would have consent from the employees, but not necessarily anyone who walked by the camera and was automatically compared against a database of people approved for access.
“The idea of consent as a general concept is great, but once you try to apply it to how it actually works it’s not so simple,” Szabo said.
“It’s a complicated question,” said Carl Szabo, policy counsel for NetChoice, an association of Web companies such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo. “My concern is that if we go down this road, we’re not going to give this technology the opportunity to flourish and provide some of the really cool innovations that I can’t even think of today.”
Szabo said he’s in favor of a code of conduct that would require companies using facial recognition to be transparent about their use of the technology with a notice or sign. That would allow consumers to “vote with their feet” if they feel uncomfortable, he said.
NetChoice, which represents Web companies and advocates for online commerce, was pleased with the National Telecommunications & Information Association’s facial recognition meeting Tuesday (July 28).
The meeting’s main goal was to vet two proposed privacy best practices for facial recognition, both by stakeholders, and one of the two proposed by NetChoice.
“Today was extremely productive as a diverse group of stakeholders made clear steps toward establishing facial recognition technology policies and regulations that foster transparency, control and closure,” said Carl Szabo, policy counsel for NetChoice. “I think we all agree that companies using facial recognition technologies should provide people with meaningful control when their facial image data is shared with others who might not otherwise have access to or are authorized to have access to that data. We continue to encourage all interested parties to participate in this inclusive and cooperative process.”
Privacy advocates are warning about the loss of public anonymity from face-recognition technology that’s ubiquitous thanks to Facebook and other software companies. We’ll hear about the risks… as well as the benefits.
Facial recognition technologies have been used for security and safety applications for years in the United States and abroad. Due to high costs and technological limitations, it was used mostly for homeland security to identify terrorists and protect airports. But over the past several years, facial technologies have evolved and reduced in cost, enabling the development of convenience applications to help us better connect with friends and loved ones and to organize our thousands of photos.
With cameras being attached to every phone, computer and tablet, along with virtually unlimited storage space, most of us now have photo collections numbering in the thousands. But much in the same way search engines made navigating the Internet easier, we need better ways to search through our photos to find the ones we seek.
We’ve seen TV shows about ghost hunters and Bigfoot hunters, where they eschew science and fact in favor of fears and fantasy. That’s understandable, since it’s impossible to have real conversations when some talk about what might exist and others are talking about what does exist. The same is true for sweeping privacy legislation coming out of the Obama White House.
This week the White House released its Privacy Bill of Rights — sweeping privacy legislation based mostly on anecdotes and fears instead of evidence and cost-benefit analysis. By arming the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with incredible new punitive powers, this bill strings CAUTION tape in front of American businesses developing new technologies and business models.