Companies need to be careful about not violating user privacy when implementing facial recognition technology in their products, the Federal Trade Commission warned.

The Federal Trade Commission would take a hard line on companies that violate consumer privacy using facial recognition technology, the agency's chairman said at a public workshop.

Government officials, privacy advocates and technology companies discussed the ethics of facial recognition and the impact on user privacy at a workshop in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8. Facial recognition technology has been integrated in a wide range of products and services, including online social networks, digital billboards and mobile apps, which raises a host of privacy and security concerns, the FTC said.

While the technology can be used in positive ways, regulators, companies and consumers must "acknowledge and address that they have the potential to run right over consumers," forcing users to reveal more information than they intended to, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at the workshop.

Even if the technology isn’t fully mature yet, it will soon be possible for the technology to match a name with a face and be able to access data about jobs, credit history and health without the user even being aware of it, according to Leibowitz.

The FTC will “vigorously enforce the law if we see a violation” of privacy through a facial recognition feature, Leibowitz said.

Insurers and employers may soon start using facial recognition technology to find information about a potential customer or worker, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill said. "It is scenarios like these we must bear in mind as we both guide and react to how these technologies change the way we buy, sell and live," Brill said...