Privacy

Feds' facial recognition systems fall outside code of conduct

monitor faces

Federal agencies' facial recognition systems won't immediately fall under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's effort to develop a privacy code of conduct for the technology's commercial use, but could be added in the future.

NTIA is in the process of developing a voluntary code-of-conduct for rapidly emerging facial recognition technologies that address growing privacy concerns. In the last few weeks, the agency has been holding its initial public meetings with industry and consumer stakeholder groups to get input for the code, which the Federal Trade Commission would ultimately enforce.

At the NTIA's Feb. 6 stakeholder meeting, the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Digital Democracy pushed to include in the discussion facial recognition systems like those used by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

At the Feb. 25 meeting, however, John Morris, associate administrator and director of Internet policy at NTIA's Office of Policy Analysis Development, said the code would focus on commercial use. He didn't specifically rule out including federal systems in the future, however, adding the group might circle back to take a look at federal agencies' systems when the initial commercial code work is done.

"We understand that some stakeholders are interested in this topic, and recognize that it is an important issue," Morris said at the Feb. 25 meeting.

The government's use of the technology, he said, is outside the Federal Trade Commission's consumer-focused enforcement authority. “The same is true for companies that themselves provide technology to the government for the government’s use," he added.

Creating a draft commercial-use code is already a tall order for the group..

"Frankly everyone here has limited time and we really think we should focus primarily on what we can do something about,” Morris said. “It’s an important topic and a big topic and actually I think that this group will have an awful lot on its plate just to work through the commercial side.”

The NTIA meetings continue through June.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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