On February 6, the first meeting in a multistakeholder process on facial recognition privacy will convene in Washington, DC. The Marketing Research Association (MRA) will present a white paper on the marketing research applications of facial recognition and participate as part of a panel discussion.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is bringing together technology, policy, legal and other experts from innovation companies, trade associations, activist groups, academic institutions and other organizations to develop and agree upon an enforceable code of conduct for the commercial use of facial recognition technology.

This will be the second multistakeholder process moderated by NTIA. The first, on mobile apps privacy, wrapped up somewhat ambiguously this past summer, producing a code of conduct for mobile app privacy that hardly anyone has adopted, but it was a solid first step. The multistakeholder approach to privacy progress is a key element of the White House’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights initiative and part of the reason that President Barack Obama rated the top spot on MRA's list of the top 10 government players in consumer privacy in 2014.

The marketing research applications of facial recognition technology
In our white paper, MRA examined how the survey, opinion and marketing research profession uses (or could use) facial recognition, including interviews and discussions with technology providers, research practitioners, and users. Our overview found that researchers are already using facial recognition for (1) facial coding and eye tracking and (2) measuring and tracking demographics and consumer traffic flow. We also found potential marketing research uses, such as increasing the accuracy of audience ratings measurement, or fraud and error prevention.

The NTIA multistakeholder process for facial recognition privacy is only looking at commercial applications, and survey, opinion and marketing research is recognized as inherently non-commercial. However, since the research profession is almost inevitably drawn into discussions about marketing, advertising and sales, MRA has offered this overview to help inform our fellow stakeholders and improve the chances of a sensible code of conduct being produced by the multistakeholder process.

Working towards success in the multistakeholder process
MRA will participate in the facial recognition privacy process, just like we did in the mobile app privacy process.

Many industry stakeholders, like MRA, remain committed to positive results from these multistakeholder processes, for fear that activists will seize upon failure to push for aggressive regulatory maneuvers instead. We look forward to some constructive debate and learning a lot.