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US Senate examines privacy concerns of Facebook's facial recognition feature

During a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s privacy, technology and law subcommittee, Franken, who chairs the panel, chastised Facebook for not fully explaining the facial recognition feature to Facebook users.

Facebook could do more “to explain to its users how it uses facial recognition – and to give them better choices about whether or not to participate in tag suggestions. I think that Facebook could make clear to its users just how much data it has – and how it will and will not use its large and growing database of faceprints. And I think that if Facebook did these things, they would establish a best practice against which other social networks would be measured”, Franken said during his opening statement.

Robert Sherman, manager of privacy and public policy at Facebook, told the panel that his company includes user controls in its tag suggestions feature and has instituted safeguards to protect the data collected in connection with tag suggestions.

Franken noted that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is developing privacy best practices for commercial use of facial recognition technology.

Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, told the panel that the best practices would be based on the principles identified in the agency's recent privacy report – privacy by design, simplified consumer choice, and transparency. The agency expects to issue a report with best practices later this year, he said.

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