Senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would require companies to get explicit consent from the subjects of photos before they could use them in a set of facial recognition data.
The bill was proposed by Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii following news that IBM collected nearly a million photos of people on Flickr and created a set of facial recognition data out of the photos to help researchers better facial recognition technology.
Startled that the company was able to collect something so personal without the consent of the people pictured, the senators crafted a bill that would regulate the way in which businesses can collect facial recognition data and limit what they could do with the data once collected.
“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is being collected and used, including data collected through facial recognition technology,” Senator Blunt said of the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act of 2019. "That’s why we need guardrails to ensure that, as this technology continues to develop, it is implemented responsibly."
Senator Schatz agreed, saying that he co-sponsored the bill to ensure that people know what private companies are doing with their photos.
“Our faces are our identities. They’re personal. So the responsibility is on companies to ask people for their permission before they track and analyze their faces,” Schatz said. “Our bill makes sure that people are given the information and—more importantly—the control over how their data is shared with companies using facial recognition technology.”
Notably, the bill excludes law enforcement agencies, which use facial recognition technology to search for people they believe have committed crimes.