On February 6, 2014, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) commenced a new multistakeholder process focused on facial recognition technology. Like the earlier NTIA multistakeholder process, which began in 2012 and focused on mobile application transparency, the purpose of the initial February meeting was to begin to develop a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct designed to provide transparency related to the use of facial recognition technology.

Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA kicked off the meeting with remarks about the process’ goal, which is to facilitate discussion on a path forward applying the White House’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to facial recognition technology in the commercial context.

The meeting featured three panels focused on the fundamentals of facial recognition technology, its commercial applications, and technical privacy safeguards.

The first panel featured panelists who provided information about the accuracy of the technology, and how it is currently applied, especially as used to determine age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and emotion. Audience questions probed the panel about the accuracy of matching photos to a database.

The second panel, which focused on marketing research and commercial applications of the technology, focused on its many positive uses. They explored how in marketing facial recognition technology can be used to gauge concepts such as emotional response, as well as improve accuracy by authenticating marketing participants. Other commercial applications touched upon were security and law enforcement. The audience focused on the use and sharing of this data.

Finally, the third panel discussed privacy safeguards over the data, including the risks arising from the linkage of offline data with online profiles. The audience focused on how notice would be provided to individuals about the use of facial recognition technology, as well as the limits of this technology and its potential for misuse.

On February 25, 2014, NTIA convened a second meeting of the facial recognition multistakeholder process. At this meeting, NTIA stressed that the process was focused on issues related to commercial use with the objective of drafting a private code of conduct. Facial recognition  industry experts presented on key aspects of the technology, such as algorithms used to generate biometric templates and the error rates associated with the technology. During the facilitated discussion, participants discussed the size of databases used for matching as well as various factors that contribute to accuracy. At the end of the meeting, NTIA and participants agreed to conduct additional fact-finding at the next meeting in March, to be followed by an effort to begin drafting a code of conduct.