face, facebook, politics, senate, technology

It’s not the tech, it’s the people: Senate Face Rec Hearings Edition

Here are a couple of news pieces on the hearing of the Privacy Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee facial recognition and privacy.

Sen. Al Franken reads Facebook the riot act over facial recognition risks (All Voices)

The senator made some pointed criticisms to Facebook’s manager of privacy and public policy Rob Sherman. Sen. Franken noted how difficult it is for users to opt out of having their faces recognized by Facebook supercomputers. The privacy settings, he argued, are buried deep in a lengthy and frustrating process. “Right now, you have to go through six different screens to get (to the privacy opt-out),” Sen. Franken complained. “I’m not sure that’s ‘easy to use’.”

Regulation of Facial Recognition May Be Needed, US Senator Says (PC World)

The growing use of facial recognition technology raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns, said Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s privacy subcommittee. Franken, during a subcommittee hearing, called on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Facebook to change the way they use facial recognition technology.

Biometric information, including facial features, is sensitive because it is unique and permanent, Franken said.

There are real privacy issues surrounding both government biometric surveillance and the transparency of private entities that use biometrics.

Dealing with the particulars of the hearing, though, it seems that if you’re mad at Facebook, deal with Facebook and that those worried about the government’s respect for the privacy of citizens would be best served arguing for limits to the government’s snooping power, regardless of the technical method used. 

See:
Surveillance requests to cellphone carriers surge and Twitter Gives User Info In 75% Of U.S. Inquiries. Google says it complied with about 65% of court orders and 47% of informal requests in the second half of 2011.

Of the methods Facebook uses to extract personal information from users, facial recognition is perhaps the best known.

Of the myriad technologies government uses to track citizens, facial recognition is among the least significant.

That won’t always be the case, so it’s good to to build consensus on the proper use of a new technology in an open and informed way, but it shouldn’t be hyped and used as a distraction from more pertinent privacy issues.

It’s not the tech, it’s the people.

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