Last month, as we previously reported, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it will host a December workshop to explore potential privacy and security implications raised by the increasing use of facial recognition technology.  Yesterday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee sent a letter to the FTC commending the agency for its examination of this emerging technology and requesting a report following the workshop.  Senator Rockefeller indicated that the report should include potential legislative approaches to protect consumer privacy as facial recognition technology proliferates.

New uses for facial recognition technology are being deployed in both the public and private sectors.  The Federal Bureau of Investigations is working to activate a nationwide facial recognition service, Next Generation Identification, which will be available to law enforcement authorities in select states by January 2012.  And, as Senator Rockefeller noted in his letter, “facial recognition technology is already being put to use in a broad range of commercial areas,” including real-time scanning to identify the demographic features of crowds or of individuals standing next to advertising displays, as well as scanning of photographs users upload to an online service to identify the individuals depicted in them.

The FTC workshop is scheduled for December 8, 2011, and Senator Rockefeller has requested that the FTC provide a preliminary report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation by February 8, 2012.