Privacy advocacy groups announced Tuesday they were leaving U.S. government-hosted talks with technology companies aimed at developing a code of conduct for using biometric software.
Nine organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sent a letter explaining that they were leaving discussions led by the National Telecommunications Information Administration, part of the Department of Commerce, which have been held since February 2014. The talks among multiple stakeholders are meant to create a voluntary ethical code for the use of facial recognition technology.
This software is utilized by many Silicon Valley giants, especially social media platforms like Facebook, and the government-and there aren't any federal regulations to restrict these entities.
The groups claim continuing the talks is a waste of resources because the tech companies would not accept even extremely modest measures to protect consumer privacy.
"We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy," according to a joint statement released by the privacy activists. "People have the right to control who gets their sensitive information, and how that information is shared."
The groups were angered last week after all tech companies and trade associations at the table refused to commit to asking for someone's permission before identifying him or her through facial recognition.
"There is no question that biometric information is extremely sensitive," the groups' statement continued. "You can change your password and your credit card number; you cannot change your fingerprints or the precise dimensions of your face. Through facial recognition, these immutable, physical facts can be used to identify you, remotely and in secret, without any recourse."
The announcement comes a day after Facebook launched a new app, Moments, that searches through photos saved on a user's smartphone and uses facial recognition technology to clump together photos of other people for sharing.