Sen. Franken: Privacy Concerns About Faceprints

Updated: 09/20/2013 10:15 PM By: Josh Rosenthal

Facebook has more than one billion users. The company knows their names, friends, jobs, and likes, and it also has a growing number of their faceprints.

As Sen. Al Franken put it, "the implications of this are tremendous."

A faceprint is a unique digital model of a face, think of it like a fingerprint. Facebook recently announced a potential expansion of their faceprint collection, and that's why Franken wrote a letter to the company expressing concerns over privacy.

"Unless we consider how we treat this," said Franken, "wherever you go people can see who you are and know a lot about you, and that's never happened before."

Sound crazy? Not according to James Keuning, who works at Minneapolis-based data security company LuciData. Keuning says Franken's movie-like scenario probably isn't possible now, but it could be down the road.
"If the photos are being stored, and they're all time, date, and location stamped," he said, "at any point if I suspect you of doing anything that I don't like - me being the government or some commercial agency - I can go find out exactly where you were on any given day at any given time."

So where do we go from here? Keuning says simply -- if you're worried about faceprints, don't use the technology. He assumes that companies like Facebook are collecting faceprints to make money, not track you, but he admits, right now we don't know for sure.

"That's the threat," he explained, "is that you don't know how it's going to be used, and even if you know how it's being used today, you don't know how it's going to be used tomorrow or five years from now."
We reached out to Facebook to see what they have to say about Franken's letter.

So far, we haven't heard back.

Sen. Franken is also asking Apple for more clarity on privacy and security concerns he has with its use of fingerprint recognition technology in the new iPhone 5S.