New Legal Issues Surrounding Facial Recognition Technology
WCAX-TV reported that Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan is suing an online company accused of collecting billions of images of people’s faces across social media platforms. Joe Vega of WIZN 106.7 is on the radio with Attorney Ben Barry of Martin, Harding and Mazzotti discussing new legal issues surrounding facial recognition technology. For example, Ben talks about a 2017 memo from the ACLU issued to the Vermont DMV for using facial recognition technology and providing images to the FBI and other federal agencies. Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.
Joe: 106.7 WIZN. It’s Blue Oyster Cult and “Burnin’ For You”. Heard Tom Petty before that. I’m Joe Vega here with you on your Wednesday Rocking Ride Home. I’ve got Ben Barry on the phone right now from Martin Harding & Mazzotti. Hello, Ben.
Ben: Joe, how are you?
Joe: I’m good. So, WCAX reporting that Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan is suing an online company accused of collecting billions of images of people’s faces across social media platforms, and I was just wondering if you could maybe explain this lawsuit to us a little bit.
Ben: Sure. For one, facial recognition software, which is at issue in this suit, is a significantly emerging field in IT technology, and we will see nationally a lot of litigation similar to the litigation that’s been taken up by A. G. Donovan, where data mining, basically Vermont is saying, “Hey, listen, this private company has exceeded what the law allows in terms of obtaining this data and then using this data, ultimately selling it to other parties, for a lot of reasons, consumer tracking primarily, but it could also be for other nefarious reasons as well.” The reality is there’s a lot of companies that are gathering this data from Facebook and all of these other sources and compiling the data, and basically making user profiles.
For your listeners, Joe, I would draw their attention for a very good read, I think, very juicy, from the Vermont ACLU that deals with a very similar issue that Vermonters have with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The ACLU, in May of 2017, issued a memo to the Vermont DMV, who was also using facial recognition technology and providing images to the FBI and other federal agencies. It’s a very good read. It sort of sets the stage for what we’re dealing with now.
Two totally different laws. The DMV law that was being violated and brought to the attention of the DMV by the ACLU is found in a different chapter than the commerce and trade law, which T. J. Donovan is now using against this private firm, but very similar issues. It goes to the heart of facial recognition technology and the amassing of data based on your own facial features. Very interesting. I think a lot of your listeners would be interested to read about this and kind of get a better idea of what’s at stake and some of the harms that can come to regular average citizens who happen to look like somebody else.
Joe: Wow. And where would they find this article?
Ben: If you google “ACLU Vermont Letter to DMV Commissioner” you’ll find it. It’s very good. I’m sure you could contact the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont to get a copy of it, but it’s a very good read, and again, it kind of sets the stage and is really kind of a sibling to what is going on right now with the article that you cited.
Joe: All right. Well, thank you very much. Ben Barry from Martin, Harding and Mazzotti.
Ben: Thank you, Joe.
Joe: You, of course, can call Ben at any time at 1-800-LAW-1010, or go online to 1800law1010.com. All right. I’m out of here. More classic rock on the way. Ozzie, Guns N’ Roses, and ZZ Top next.