This Week in Tech: Franken to quiz Facebook on facial recognition

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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Privacy subcommittee, has voiced concern about Facebook not including sufficient privacy protections in the tagging feature. In comments to the Department of Commerce, Franken has written that Facebook likely holds the largest privately held collection of face prints in the world.

In his announcement of the hearing, Franken noted that police and motor vehicle registration departments also use the facial recognition technology. To that end, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jerome Pender and Maneesha Mithal from the Federal Trade Commission’s division of privacy and identity protection will on be on hand Wednesday to provide the federal government’s perspective. Sheriff Larry Amerson, president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, will also testify.

Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is expected to weigh in on the civil liberties implications of facial recognition technology. Lynch voiced concern when Facebook acquired Face.com last year, saying users should be concerned about what the social networking site plans to do with all the face prints it owns.

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will look at the steps that have been taken to protect the electrical grid. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the chairman of the committee, said he hopes the Senate will include his Grid Cyber Security Act in a larger cybersecurity package.

As the number of legislative days continues to shrink, it’s still unclear if the Senate will be able to hammer out a compromise on the critical infrastructure provisions in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill before the August recess. But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t rule anything out, and said it’s still possible that the Senate will bring the bill to the floor this month.

The House Judiciary Committee’s IP panel will look at the International Trade Commission and patent disputes on Wednesday. Lawmakers will likely question the practice of patent holders going to the ITC to secure an exclusion order that will bar gadgets from entering the United States. Last week, the Judiciary Committee in the upper chamber examined whether the ITC should grant these exclusion orders to companies that hold standards-essential patents.

The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the role the federal government plays in expanding broadband access to small businesses. Scheduled to testify are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, National Telecommunications and Information Administration Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling and Jonathan Adelstein of the Department of Agriculture.