Technology industry lobbyists have so thoroughly hijacked the Commerce Department process for developing a voluntary code of conduct for the use of facial recognition technology that nine privacy advocates involved withdrew in protest on Monday.

“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 privacy advocates wrote in a joint statement. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise.”

The Commerce Department, through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration, brought together “representatives from technology companies, trade groups, consumer groups, academic institutions and other organizations” early last year “to kick off an effort to craft privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology.”

The goal was “to develop a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct that specifies how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies to facial recognition technology in the commercial context.”

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