Jesse Jones

Jesse Jones: FTC cracking down on companies who collect biometric data

Will big brother soon be able to track your every move? Our face and fingerprints could one day be for sale. And now the Federal Trade Commission is sending a warning to companies who may illegally collect and sell that data. Biometrics is a fast-moving, multi-billion-dollar industry that the FTC says needs guardrails now.

Information on your eyes, fingerprints and facial measurements are being recorded. From your phone to your trip to the airport, biometrics are being kept on all of us.

But the Federal Trade Commission is worried about how that data will be handled.

“What the policy makers are trying to do right now is simply ensure that we all know what data is being collected,” says Chuck Harwood, FTC Regional Director.

When it comes to biometrics, the slope isn’t just slippery, it’s also vertical. The FTC is worried companies could use consumer biometrics in marketing strategies. A company could track you walking through the mall. Gathering data on not just your purchases, but even your mood. Chuck Harwood is worried, “it could be used to identify you in all kinds of settings and situations where you may not want to be identified or may not know you’re even being identified.”

The FTC will check if businesses are collecting this information illegally and evaluate if the practices of third parties who will have access to consumer’s information. Also, ensure companies are monitoring their technology to make sure consumers are unharmed by the data.

The Biometrics business is booming. In 2023 it is valued at over 30 billion and is set to more than double to 76 million by 2029.

Also on the FTC’s radar are DNA collection companies, such as those which run searches for family history. Could that information ever be sold and used against you?

Chuck Harwood is worried that could be the worst-case scenario. “It could be valuable to people who market products to consumers with medical conditions or may need certain treatments. It may also be valuable to those trying to set insurance rates and decide whether somebody should have to pay a higher insurance rate based on their potential for developing a genetic condition.”