Half of respondents in a recent Threatpost poll said that they don’t believe consent realistically exists when it comes to real-life facial recognition.
The recent poll of 170 readers comes as facial recognition applications continue to pop up in the real world – from airports to police forces. While biometrics certainly has advantages – such as making identification more efficient – gaining consent from people whose biometrics are being taken remains a mystery to some, with 53 percent of respondents saying they don’t believe that consent exists or is possible in real-life facial recognition applications .
In the poll, 32 percent more respondents said that consent will be the act of giving people notification that an area is using facial recognition; and only 10 percent said consent is the ability to opt out of facial recognition applications.
The issue of biometrics consent came to the forefront again in December when the Department of Homeland Security unveiled a facial-recognition pilot program for monitoring public areas surrounding the White House. When asked about consent, the department said that the public cannot opt-out of the pilot, except by avoiding the areas that will be filmed as part of the program.
“A very weak form of protection is if the government or a business [that uses biometrics for] surveillance, they notify people,” Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties team, told Threatpost. “We think this is not consent – real consent is where they don’t aim a camera at you.”
Beyond consent, more than half of poll respondents said that they have negative feelings toward facial recognition due to issues related to privacy and security – while 30 percent more said they have “mixed” feelings, understanding both the benefits and privacy concerns.
When asked what concerns them the most about real-world facial applications, 55 percent of those surveyed pointed to privacy and surveillance issues, while 29 percent said the security of biometrics information and how the data is shared.
Despite these concerns, biometrics continues to gain traction, with the EU last week approving a massive biometrics database for both EU and non-EU citizens. The EU’s approval of the database, called the “Common Identity Repository,” will aim to connect the systems used by border control, migration and law-enforcement agencies.
As biometrics continue to increase, meanwhile, up to 85 percent of respondents said that they think that facial recognition should be regulated in the future.
Such laws exist or are being discussed as it relates to consent: An Illinois law for instance regulates collection of biometric information (including for facial recognition) without consent.
However, that law only applies to businesses and not law enforcement. Meanwhile, a new bill introduced in the Senate in March, the “Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act,” would bar businesses that are using facial recognition from harvesting and sharing user data without consent.
“The time to regulate and restrict the use of facial recognition technology is now, before it becomes embedded in our everyday lives,” said Jason Kelly, digital strategist with EFF, in a recent post. “Government agencies and airlines have ignored years of warnings from privacy groups and Senators that using face recognition technology on travelers would massively violate their privacy. Now, the passengers are in revolt as well, and they’re demanding answers.”