FTC Rejects Biometric Age Verification System Amid Privacy Concerns

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously voted to reject an application from three software companies seeking to implement a new parental consent mechanism using biometric technologies to ascertain a user's age. The application, submitted by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Yoti, and SuperAwesome, proposed a "Privacy-Protective Facial Age Estimation" system, utilizing facial analysis to confirm a user's adulthood for accessing certain online content. Despite Yoti's claims that their technology does not constitute facial recognition, concerns were raised during the open comment period regarding data collection and potential privacy violations, including the creation of deepfake content.

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The decision comes amidst growing scrutiny over facial recognition technologies, with advocacy groups such as Fight for the Future hailing the FTC's move as a victory for privacy rights. Critics argue that the distinction between facial analysis and facial recognition is negligible, highlighting concerns about the misuse of biometric data and its potential to perpetuate societal biases. Despite the disappointment expressed by ESRB and Yoti, the FTC's decision underscores the need for a thorough evaluation of emerging technologies and their implications for consumer privacy under regulations like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

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