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Privacy Groups Walk Out of Facial Recognition Talks With Tech Giants

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Privacy advocates pulled out of talks with members of the tech industry meant to establish voluntary restrictions on the use facial recognition software.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and seven other groups signed a letter on Monday stating that the negotiations, hosted by the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, had gone nowhere since they began in February 2014. Facial recognition software is now common, with Facebook and Google using it to tag and organize photos, and Samsung using it to let people unlock their phones.

"At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement — and identifying them by name — using facial recognition technology," the letter said. "Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise."

As the technology advances, some lawmakers and privacy groups are worried about a "Minority Report"-style scenario where people are recognized by cameras wherever they go and are served up personalized ads.

Related: Smile, Seattle! Police Now Can Use Facial Recognition Software

"People deserve more protection than they are likely to get in this forum," the letter said. "Therefore, at this point, we choose to withdraw from further deliberations."

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