For facial recognition, Zuckerberg calls for consent while Facebook fights it in court

By Cale Guthrie Weissman

April 10, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg was grilled today by a joint meeting of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees. The Facebook chief executive has been asked a broad array of questions, ranging from regulation, to data privacy, to foreign intrusion. And, in true Facebook fashion, Zuckerberg is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

When asked truly tough questions, the Facebook founder and CEO has either offered to discuss the issue with others and give an answer at a later date, or simply danced around the issues at hand thanks to vague wording. And he even seemed to contradict some of the stances his company has actively taken.

During a series of question about user data control–specifically touching on Europe’s GDPR regulations–Zuckerberg talked about Facebook users’ privacy protections. While he wouldn’t say that the social network would implement GDPR-like protections around the globe, he said that users would be given better control over what data they share on the platform. Specifically, Zuckerberg said, the company is committed to have users give “affirmative consent” for “technologies like facial recognition.”

That’s a step in the right direction, if it were true. And, it turns out, it probably isn’t. This is because Facebook has been actively fighting an Illinois privacy law that requires companies get explicit consent from users before they collect biometric data.

This law, called BIPA, has been in Facebook’s crosshairs for years. Now, the Illinois legislature is considering an amendment to the law that would give companies much more leniency when trying to collect this type of personal data. If this amendment passes, it would be a huge win for Facebook–which has long tried to kill this bill for requiring explicit consent.

So it seems that even though Zuckerberg said Facebook would require “affirmative consent” for facial recognition, its lobbying efforts say otherwise.