Two U.S. senators seek ban on collecting customer biometric data without consent

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(Reuters) - Two U.S. senators are proposing legislation to prohibit private companies from collecting biometric data without consumers and employees’ consent.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said this week he is introducing the reform measure along with independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The effort comes after growing concerns about biometric data collection among private companies, including the use of facial-recognition technology.

The senators cited a recent Reuters investigation into Rite Aid’s facial-recognition program among other reports causing alarm about the technology’s use.

“We have to fight against a ‘big brother’ surveillance state that eradicates our privacy and our control of our own information, be it a threat from the government or from private companies,” Merkley said in a statement.

The bill is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Open Technology Institute.

This year, Merkley introduced legislation to impose a moratorium on all federal governmental use of facial-recognition technology until Congress passes a bill outlining specific uses. Congress has held committee hearings on facial recognition, but no legislation has been approved.

Reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Gerry Doyle