In response to the increasing use of consumer biometric information and related marketing of technologies that purport to use biometric information, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has adopted a policy statement on potential violations of the FTC’s prohibitions on Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP/Section 5 of the FTC Act) with regard to the collection and use of biometric information as well as claims regarding related technologies.
Policy Statement on Biometric Information
“Biometric Information”. For purposes of the policy statement, “biometric information” refers to data that depict or describe physical, biological, or behavioral traits, characteristics, or measurements of or relating to an identified or identifiable person’s body, including, but not limited to:
- Depictions, images, descriptions, or recordings of an individual’s facial features, iris or retina, finger or handprints, voice, genetics, or characteristic movements or gestures (e.g., gait or typing pattern)
- Data derived from these sources of information
Emergent Risks. The FTC denotes examples of new and increasing risks associated with the collection and use of biometric information, including:
- “Deepfakes” or counterfeit videos or voice recordings that allow bad actors to convincingly impersonate individuals in order to commit fraud or to defame or harass the individuals depicted.
- Large databases of biometric information, which could be attractive targets for malicious actors seeking unauthorized access to devices, facilities, or data.
- Location data, which could reveal sensitive personal information about individuals with unintended consequences (e.g., types of healthcare or attendance at religious, political, or union meetings).
- Differential outcomes/treatment, where technologies may perform differently across demographic groups (e.g., facial recognition or voice recording technologies).
UDAP/Section 5 of FTC Act. The policy statement includes a non-exhaustive list of examples of biometric information collection and use practices that may be considered “unfair” or “deceptive” under UDAP, including:
- False or unsubstantiated marketing claims relating to the validity, reliability, accuracy, performance, fairness, or efficacy of technologies using biometric information.
- Deceptive statements about the collection and use of biometric information.
- Failing to assess foreseeable harms to consumers before collecting biometric information.
- Failing to promptly address known or foreseeable risks, including failing to identify and implement readily available tools for reducing or eliminating risks.
- Engaging in surreptitious and unexpected collection or use of biometric information.
- Failing to evaluate the practices and capabilities of third parties, including affiliates, vendors, and end users that will be given access to consumers’ biometric information or charged with operating biometric information technologies.
- Failing to provide appropriate training for employees and contractors.
- Failing to conduct ongoing monitoring of technologies that the business develops, offers for sale, or uses in connection with biometric information to ensure they are functioning as anticipated, are being operating as intended, and are not likely to cause harm to consumers.