The Federal Trade Commission released “Facing Facts: Best Practices for Common Uses of Facial Recognition Technologies,” a staff report that the agency hopes will provide guidance to the increasing number of companies using such technology.

With the rise of facial recognition technology – which can be used to determine an individual’s age range and gender to deliver targeted advertising, for example – privacy concerns must be addressed, the agency emphasized. Individuals may be identified without their knowledge and the sensitive data collected is susceptible to hacking or a security breach, the FTC cautioned.

The report recommends, among other things, that services should be designed with consumer privacy security protections in mind and that methods for determining when to keep or destroy information should be created.

Steps should be taken by all companies to make consumers aware that such technology is being used, the agency said. For example, if digital signs are used to analyze the demographic features of individuals walking by, notice should be provided before people come into contact with the technology.

According to the agency, social networks “should provide consumers with clear notice about how the feature works, what data it collects, and how that data will be used.” Users should also be provided with the choice not to have their data collected, the ability to turn off the facial recognition feature if they do choose to use it, and to have their previously collected information deleted.

Certain circumstances may require affirmative consent from consumers prior to using facial recognition technology, the report recommended, and listed two examples. First, consent should be obtained before using facial recognition to identify anonymous images of a consumer for a stranger. In a second scenario, consent should be obtained when images or biometric data are used differently by a company than originally represented when the data was collected.

To read the report, click here.

Why it matters: The agency hopes that by issuing its report while the technology is still in the infant stages, it may better protect the consumers. “Fortunately, the commercial use of facial recognition technologies is still young. This creates a unique opportunity to ensure that as this industry grows, it does so in a way that respects the privacy interests of consumers while preserving the beneficial uses the technology has to offer,” according to the report. However, the agency’s forward-thinking found disfavor with one member of the Commission. FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch filed a dissenting statement in which he stated that “the Report goes too far, too soon.” “I do not believe that such far-reaching conclusions and recommendations can be justified at this time,” he wrote. “There is no support at all in the [Report] for them, much less the kind of rigorous cost-benefit analysis that should be conducted before the Commission embraces such recommendations.”