On July 18, 2012, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, held a hearing titled “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties” to consider the implications of facial recognition technology in law enforcement and civil applications.

Subcommittee Chairman Al Franken (D-MN) said he called the hearing to raise awareness that facial recognition technology is in widespread use today. He explained that facial recognition raises acute privacy concerns, and that he believes in the fundamental right to control biometric information because it is permanent and inalterable.

Maneesha Mithal, of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), testified to a number of examples of both beneficial and more invasive commercial uses of facial recognition technology. Ms. Mithal highlighted the FTC’s December 2011 workshop on the topic, where participants discussed the increased use of facial recognition technologies due to recent developments such as better cameras and the rapid growth of online photo sharing. She recommended that companies that employ facial recognition technology should provide clear, simple, concise notice of the practice. She also revealed that the FTC plans to issue a report later this year recommending best practices for using facial recognition technologies.