Summary:

Devices that treat our face as a fingerprint are one of the more unnerving technologies of the information age. Privacy regulators are start…

Face in a magnifying glass
photo: Flickr / CJ Sorg

Devices that treat our face as a fingerprint are one of the more unnerving technologies of the information age. Privacy regulators are starting to take note.

The Federal Trade Commission today issued a notice calling for public comments on facial recognition. The agency asked for input on issues related to privacy, children and possible commercial applications of the technology.

The technology is already in widespread use in many security and social media applications. It works by measuring the unique contours of any human face and matching them against existing stores of photographs. Facebook, for instance, uses the technology to assist users find and tag photos.

It is already trickling into other marketing forums such as nightclubs where sensors can count and record how many men and women are in a space. Marketers have also proposed using facial recognition to customize billboard advertising based on the individual person walking by.

There are of course enormous privacy implications because it is possible for governments or companies to track people simply on the basis of their face. Former Google (NSDQ: GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt earlier this year warned the government of creating a facial recognition database and called the technology “creepy.” But the company is still using a version of it for its Google+ service.

The FTC, which is emerging as the closest thing America has to a federal privacy commission, says it will accept comments until January 31.

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