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Editorial: A New Worry: Protecting Your Face

March 25, 2019

In the time it takes to read this, your phone will transmit a slew of information to Google, Apple and even third parties. Chances are you never consented to this, or were informed in a long-winded End User License Agreement.

Most of us acquiesce to this intrusion for the convenience of maps services and better-targeted advertising on social media.One Missouri legislator is hoping to protect an important piece of data: our faces.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is cosponsoring the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act which would prevent companies using facial recognition technology from collecting your face and resharing it without your consent.

How could this data be used? Imagine walking into a shopping mall that knows your last few purchases made online just by scanning your face. If it sounds familiar, that’s because the sci-fi film Minority Report predicted this in 2002. George Orwell is shouting at us from his grave.

In the Philippines, this technology isn’t science fiction. A start-up based in Manila is using facial recognition in the back of ride-hailing services like Grab — think Uber, but for Asia — to estimate the gender, age and even mood of riders. This data is then paired with advertisers to deliver an ad experience for that specific rider.

This technology could easily be adapted for the screens that currently deliver video content at St. Joseph gas stations.Pairing this with tech giants that have been collecting data on us for over adecade — Facebook, Google, Amazon — and the next time you’re pumping gas, you could see an ad related to something you recently bought online or even just viewed.

If you use your face to unlock your phone, Google and Apple have that data. Facebook has been collecting facial data for years;it’s even in their name. What Blunt proposes is limiting what they can do with that data.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is being collected and used, including data collected through facial recognition technology,” Blunt said. “That’s why we need guardrails to ensure that,as this technology continues to develop, it is implemented responsibly.”

We applaud Blunt for fighting for these protections, and having the foresight to see how a developing technology can be used to harm consumers. No doubt, Silicon Valley should be free to develop technology that may improve the lives of others. Seeing ads specifically for your interests has its appeal, but to some, it could feel like an invasion.

When it comes to the internet, it’s always going to affect our lives. Blunt’s bill comfortably comprises between innovation and protection.

To read the article online, click here.    

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