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(The AEGIS Alliance) – During this past April 6th of 2018, consumer privacy organizations in a coalition which is being led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center issued complaints with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). They are accusing Facebook of violating the privacy of individuals because of their practicing of facial recognition. This complaint is focusing on recent changes made to Facebook policy which took effect earlier this year, more specifically the ability of scanning user images for bio-metric facial matching without their prior consent.
The organizations are claiming that Facebook is selling the facial recognition technology and being deceptive about it to users by using encouragement in order for the identification of people in their images. “This unwanted, unnecessary, and dangerous identification of individuals undermines user privacy, ignores the explicit preferences of Facebook users, and is contrary to law in several state and many parts of the world,” reads the complaint.
This coalition is claiming Facebook policy is in violation of the Consent Order from 2011 with the FTC, saying the facial scanning without consent is ‘unlawful’. The coalition is calling on the FTC to reopen an investigation from 2009 of Facebook because of recent revelations involving Cambridge Analytica being able to access millions of users private data on Facebook. The EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has been calling on the FTC for an investigation into Facebook’s practices of facial recognition since the year 2011.
“Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation,” mentioned President of EPIC, Marc Rotenberg.
Other organizations are participating in these complaints against Facebook, included is The Center for Digital Democracy, The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, The Cyber Privacy Project, The Constitutional Alliance, The Government Accountability Project, The Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, Defending Rights & Dissent, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Patient Privacy Rights, The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and The Southern Poverty Law Center.
This isn’t the very first time time Facebook’s been been in the line of fire for the practice of facial recognition technology. Looking back to 2015, there was a lawsuit that involved a man who, even though he didn’t have a Facebook account, was in a fight to get his ‘face-print’ from Facebook. This complaint had been filed by Frederick William Gullen from Illinois. Gullen’s complaint reads:
Facebook is actively collecting, storing, and using — without providing notice, obtaining informed written consent or publishing data retention policies — the bio-metrics of its users and unwitting non-users … Specifically, Facebook has created, collected and stored over a billion ‘face templates’ (or ‘face prints’) — highly detailed geometric maps of the face — from over a billion individuals, millions of whom reside in the State of Illinois.
Even though there aren’t any federal laws for the governing of the collection of bio-metrics and commercial use, Texas and Illinois had passed laws designed for protecting the public. The Biometric Information Privacy Act in Illinois has deemed it illegal for the storage and collection of face-prints without informed written consent being obtained first. This law also makes it illegal for companies such as Facebook to lease, sell and also profit from a consumer’s bio-metric data. Facebook’s lawsuits filed against them are alleging the company is in violation of BIPA since it creates face-prints without prior consent in written form.
With Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, getting increating pressure from the public and United States Congress, Facebook might just shift towards practices that are privacy oriented. At the moment however, users need to be aware that Facebook owns their face and words, and whoever else they end up deciding to share this infromation with.
Featured Image: CC/Flickr/EFF Photos
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.