The United States Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with California-based photo app developer Everalbum Inc., on Monday, January 11, 2021. The agency alleged that the photo storage app Ever of using and sharing customer photos to developed facial recognition technology, states The Verge.
The allegations and the settlement follow the investigation of the FTC over complaints of the Ever mobile application of leveraging users’ photos without consent to use these towards facial recognition software and technology, reports Tech Crunch.
In a statement, CNET states the United States agency alleged that Ever “deceived consumers about its use of facial recognition technology and its retention of the photos and videos of users who deactivated their accounts.”
CNET revealed that in 2019, the app offered its facial recognition system to a number of private companies and even law enforcement agencies without informing its users nor getting consent from its customers.
While the company maintained that it would not retain photos and videos of individuals who have deactivated their accounts, the Federal Trade Commission said it had failed to uphold its promise until October 2019.
It has since shut down operations in August of last year, saying it had been edged out by firms such as Apple and Google from the field, states Tech Crunch.
Under the proposed terms of the deal, the Federal Trade Commission is requiring the company to completely erase any and all facial data it has obtained over the years from its cloud-based storage service Ever, reports Reuters.
In addition, Reuters states that facial recognition models, artificial intelligence technologies, as well as similar algorithms that leveraged user data, are to be deleted by the company.
Apart from the photos and videos from users, including those that have deactivated their respective accounts, Ever is also ordered by the FTC to remove all “face embeddings,” which the agency describes as “data reflecting facial features that can be used for facial recognition purposes.”
The FTC also “prohibits Everalbum from misrepresenting how it collects, uses, discloses, maintains, or deletes personal information, including face embeddings created with the use of facial recognition technology, as well as the extent to which it protects the privacy and security of personal information it collects.”
According to Tech Crunch, the ruling and the settlement given by the FTC to Ever could put other tech giants and companies who harvest personal and train artificial intelligence systems under fire.