Editorial: Face Facts

The Obama administration continues to work with stakeholders on best practices for the use of facial recognition technology. That’s a good thing. The idea that we can be identified, tracked and categorized by technology in our phones or TVs or the countless cameras that capture us multiple times per day is more than a little frightening.

Of course there are upsides, like identifying terrorists or shoplifters. But as with many issues, the balance between privacy and security has yet been met.

We were saddened to see that the civil society community continued to be no-shows at the government-moderated work sessions, though we understand their frustrations. They want more teeth in the privacy protections, including a default opt-in regime. Stakeholders are more for finessing the data collection and for it being more of a road map with flexibility to take various paths to fair information-sharing practices.

We hope one of those paths could be back to a stakeholder process that includes civil society. The more heads, and hands, working on this and other issues of privacy vs. security, the better.

On a related note, it seems to us that advocacy group Fight for the Future had a point last week in asking the FBI to share with Apple how it was able to hack its phone without the company’s help after previously suggesting to a court that it was impossible. That is another front in the war—or at least tug-of-war—of privacy vs. security.

The more information Apple has about how its security can be breached by the bad guys—and we’re not including the FBI in that group, unless that proves warranted—the better the rest of us who own an iPhone or other Apple devices will feel.