The rising use of biometric information has caused the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a warning against the new technology. The warning is based on concerns over data privacy and potential discrimination if the technology is misused. 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 a policy statement, the FTC 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. 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 FTC 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.
- 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.
The Commission voted 3-0 during an open FTC meeting to adopt the policy statement.