Just a face in a crowd? Scans pick up ID, personal data

As you scan the face on that giant billboard, it may just be scanning your face right back.

Increasingly sophisticated digital facial-recognition technology is opening new possibilities in business, marketing, advertising and law enforcement while exacerbating fears about the loss of privacy and the violation of civil liberties.

Businesses foresee a day when signs and billboards with face-recognition technology can instantly scan your face and track what other ads you’ve seen recently, adjust their message to your tastes and buying history and even track your birthday or recent home purchase. The FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies already are exploring facial-recognition tools to track suspects, quickly single out dangerous people in a crowd or match a grainy security-camera image against a vast database to look for matches.

Many fear that future is coming too quickly, with facial-recognition technology becoming increasingly advanced, available and affordable before restrictions on its use can be put into place. Concerns have been raised on Capitol Hill in recent weeks that FBI searches using the technology could trample Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, while some in the industry say excessive regulations could cripple cutting-edge technology.

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