Nine US privacy groups have pulled out of government discussions on how to use face recognition in a way that preserves privacy, citing a breakdown in communications and a lack of common ground.
The groups were engaged in talks that were seen as key to ensuring some sort of consumer control over their data and details. According to the host outfit the discussions will continue.
Campaign groups in cluding the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Common Sense Media and the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a statement on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) facial recognition process (PDF) outlining their complaints.
Talks between the above and the industry are hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the US Commerce Department, and were designed to create a code of practice.
"We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. People have the right to control who gets their sensitive information, and how that information is shared. And there is no question that biometric information is extremely sensitive," the statement said.
"At this point, we do not believe that the NTIA process is likely to yield a set of privacy rules that offers adequate protections for the use of facial recognition technology."
Problems abounded during discussions about privacy and permissions, and the groups said that they were unable to reach an accord with the industry guaranteeing that a person could walk down a street without being flagged, tagged and tracked.
"In recent NTIA meetings ... industry stakeholders were unable to agree on any concrete scenario where companies should employ facial recognition only with a consumer's permission," they added.
"At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they've never heard of are tracking their every movement - and identifying them by name - using facial recognition technology. Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise."
The talks have gone on for 16 months. V3 asked the NTIA for its response to the abrupt withdrawal of participants, and it told us that it is disappointed, but that efforts will continue.
"NTIA is disappointed that some stakeholders have chosen to stop participating in our multistakeholder engagement process regarding privacy and commercial facial recognition technology," said a spokesperson.
"Up to this point, the process has made good progress as many stakeholders, including privacy advocates, have made substantial, constructive contributions to the group's work. A substantial number of stakeholders want to continue the process and are establishing a working group that will tackle some of the thorniest privacy topics concerning facial recognition technology."
It added that the debate would be best served by full participation, adding; "NTIA will continue to facilitate meetings on this topic for those stakeholders who want to participate."
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