Everalbum has reached an agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) following allegations it deceived consumers about the use of facial recognition technology by its Ever cloud photo storage app and retention of photos and videos of users who had deactivated their accounts.
Ever was shut down last August. As part of the proposed settlement, Everalbum Inc must obtain consumers’ express consent before using facial recognition technology on their photos and videos, the FTC said. The proposed order also requires the app developer to delete models and algorithms it developed by using photos and videos uploaded by users.
“Using facial recognition, companies can turn photos of your loved ones into sensitive biometric data,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“Ensuring that companies keep their promises to customers about how they use and handle biometric data will continue to be a high priority for the FTC.”
Among allegations the commission levelled against the California-based company was that for the two years up to August 2019 Everalbum combined millions of facial images extracted from Ever users’ photos with facial images the company obtained from publicly available sources to create four datasets to develop facial recognition technology sold to enterprise customers. Everalbum did not share images from Ever users’ photos, videos or personal information with those customers, the FTC added.
The complaint also alleges Everalbum indefinitely retained photos and videos from users who had deactivated their accounts, instead of deleting them as promised.
The proposed settlement requires the company to delete:
- photos and videos by Ever app users who deactivated their accounts;
- all face embeddings, which can be used for facial recognition, that the company
- derived from photos by Ever users who did not give express consent to their use; and
- any facial recognition models or algorithms developed with Ever users’ photos or videos
The proposed settlement also prohibits Everalbum from misrepresenting how it collects, uses, discloses, maintains or deletes personal information, including face embeddings, as well as how it protects the privacy and security of personal information it collects.
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement in the Federal Register, with the settlement then subject to public comment for 30 before deciding if to make the proposed consent order final.
Last August, Everalbum shut down the Ever app citing increased competition from default services offered by Apple and Google.