The technology landscape is evolving so quickly that governments are struggling to implement effective laws to protect consumers and ensure data is being used in reasonable ways. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), effective January 1, 2020, is expected to spur more action in the legal data privacy space. What that action should be, however, is still hazy.
“The regulatory framework is really trying to keep up with the technology,” said Geoffrey Starks, commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), during a September 18 data privacy panel discussion at the Bloomberg Law Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
Of particular concern, Starks added, is facial recognition technology and its potentially wide-ranging use in surveillance and by law enforcement entities. “Black and brown people are being interdicted based on facial recognition,” he said.
In Detroit, for example, the police department has been using facial recognition software for nearly two years, despite opposition from some lawmakers and members of the public. A policy recently approved by the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners limits, but still allows, the use of the technology. At the other end of the spectrum, some cities and states, including San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts, have banned facial recognition software.
Wireless carriers and other companies are also mining and monetizing data in numerous ways, such as selling consumers’ geolocation data in real time to nearby advertisers. According to Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own some type of mobile phone, and 81% of those are smartphones.
“These things follow us everywhere we go,” Starks said. “Your location is one of the most precious pieces of information you have. I think selling it is just alarming.”