FTC Warns About Misuses of Biometric Information and Harm to Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning that the increasing use of consumers’ biometric information and related technologies, including those powered by machine learning, raises significant consumer privacy and data security concerns and the potential for bias and discrimination.

Biometric information refers to data that depict or describe physical, biological, or behavioral traits, characteristics, or measurements of or relating to an identified or identifiable person’s body.

“In recent years, biometric surveillance has grown more sophisticated and pervasive, posing new threats to privacy and civil rights,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s policy statement makes clear that companies must comply with the law regardless of the technology they are using.”

In a policy statement, the Commission said the agency is committed to combatting unfair or deceptive acts and practices related to the collection and use of consumers’ biometric information and the marketing and use of biometric information technologies.

Recent years have seen a proliferation of biometric information technologies. For instance, facial, iris, or fingerprint recognition technologies collect and process biometric information to identify individuals. Other biometric information technologies use or claim to use biometric information in order to determine characteristics of individuals, ranging from the individuals’ age, gender, or race to the individuals’ personality traits, aptitudes, or demeanor.

Consumers face new and increasing risks associated with the collection and use of biometric information. For example, using biometric information technologies to identify consumers in certain locations could reveal sensitive personal information about them such as whether they accessed particular types of healthcare, attended religious services, or attended political or union meetings. Large databases of biometric information could also be attractive targets for malicious actors who could misuse such information. Additionally, some technologies using biometric information, such as facial recognition technology, may have higher rates of error for certain populations than for others.

In recent years, the FTC has brought enforcement actions against photo app maker Everalbum and Facebook, charging they misrepresented their uses of facial recognition technology. The FTC also issued a report about facial recognition in 2012 that recommended best practices to protect consumers’ privacy.

The policy statement warns that false or unsubstantiated claims about the accuracy or efficacy of biometric information technologies or about the collection and use of biometric information may violate the FTC Act. The policy statement also notes that it will consider several factors in determining whether a business’s use of biometric information or biometric information technology could be unfair in violation of the FTC Act including:

  • Failing to assess foreseeable harms to consumers before collecting biometric information;
  • Failing to promptly address known or foreseeable risks and identify and implement tools for reducing or eliminating those risks;
  • Engaging in surreptitious and unexpected collection or use of biometric information;
  • Failing to evaluate the practices and capabilities of third parties, including affiliates, vendors, and end users, who will be given access to consumers’ biometric information or will be charged with operating biometric information technologies;
  • Failing to provide appropriate training for employees and contractors whose job duties involve interacting with biometric information or technologies that use such information; and
  • Failing to conduct ongoing monitoring of technologies that the business develops, offers for sale, or uses, in connection with biometric information to ensure that the technologies are functioning as anticipated and that the technologies are not likely to harm consumers

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • The Power of a Layered Approach to Safety

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown. Read Now

  • How a Security System Can Enhance Arena Safety and the Fan Experience

    Ensuring guests have both a memorable experience and a safe one is no small feat for your physical security team. Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, and other large event venues are increasingly leveraging new technologies to transform the fan experience and maintain a high level of security. The goal is to preserve the integrity and excitement of the event while enhancing security and remaining “behind the scenes.” Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    The latest Qualcomm® Vision Intelligence Platform offers next-generation smart camera IoT solutions to improve safety and security across enterprises, cities and spaces. The Vision Intelligence Platform was expanded in March 2022 with the introduction of the QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC), which delivers superior artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing at the edge. 3

  • A8V MIND

    A8V MIND

    Hexagon’s Geosystems presents a portable version of its Accur8vision detection system. A rugged all-in-one solution, the A8V MIND (Mobile Intrusion Detection) is designed to provide flexible protection of critical outdoor infrastructure and objects. Hexagon’s Accur8vision is a volumetric detection system that employs LiDAR technology to safeguard entire areas. Whenever it detects movement in a specified zone, it automatically differentiates a threat from a nonthreat, and immediately notifies security staff if necessary. Person detection is carried out within a radius of 80 meters from this device. Connected remotely via a portable computer device, it enables remote surveillance and does not depend on security staff patrolling the area. 3

  • Mobile Safe Shield

    Mobile Safe Shield

    SafeWood Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of patented bullet resistant products, is excited to announce the launch of the Mobile Safe Shield. The Mobile Safe Shield is a moveable bullet resistant shield that provides protection in the event of an assailant and supplies cover in the event of an active shooter. With a heavy-duty steel frame, quality castor wheels, and bullet resistant core, the Mobile Safe Shield is a perfect addition to any guard station, security desks, courthouses, police stations, schools, office spaces and more. The Mobile Safe Shield is incredibly customizable. Bullet resistant materials are available in UL 752 Levels 1 through 8 and include glass, white board, tack board, veneer, and plastic laminate. Flexibility in bullet resistant materials allows for the Mobile Safe Shield to blend more with current interior décor for a seamless design aesthetic. Optional custom paint colors are also available for the steel frame. 3