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Alongside the rapid increase in the number of facial-recognition video sensors being installed in public locations, the protection of a person’s biometric data is now escalating into new legal territory.

Earlier this week, Seattle, Washington-based Getty Images, a well-known global visual image creator and marketplace, introduced  what it says is the image industry’s first enhanced model release form.  It’s a digital document that considers the growing importance of biometric data used for the training of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications. This data, when it falls into the wrong hands, can be sold on the black market and used to facilitate identity theft and  in ways that lead to personally targeted ransomware, malware and other types of cyberattacks.

Developed with input from the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), which supports business standards in visual content, the new form provides clarity and guidance regarding  how data, including visual content, can be tracked and handled appropriately to protect the personal and biometric data captured by content creators. 

“We hope for it to be widely adopted and signed by models who feature in new commercial images and videos on the Getty Images and iStock websites,” Getty Images’ director of advocacy and legal operations counsel, Paul Reinitz, told VentureBeat. 

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Beyond its use of the form, the company wants to see it adopted by all content creators worldwide, Reinitz said. “This is now becoming a de facto standard in the industry,” he said. The DMLA had nothing like it previously.

Who owns biometric data? 

Biometric data is especially valuable because it can be used to recognize and map facial features extracted from visual content, Reinitz said. Recently, there have been many lawsuits around the use of biometric information – mostly from videocams recording people’s faces in public places on a 24/7 basis – without the explicit consent of people featured in visual imagery. 

While the laws in this area are still evolving, developers should begin with collecting data from legitimate sources and obtaining authorization for its intended use, Reinitz said. 

“As AI and ML technologies evolve in the visual content landscape, we remain committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of the content creator community as well as respecting the privacy and property rights of third parties,” Reinitz said. “Although the potential applications of AI and ML are limitless, it is important to recognize that new tools and applications require us to rethink the interaction between technology and creative processes.” 

Regulations, such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation of 2018 and other legislation around the world have changed the way that companies manage personal data, so industry processes needed to catch up, Reinitz said. 

“We must recognize that the increased use of biometric data contained in imagery to train AI/ML applications requires the need to ensure that we have obtained the model’s permission to use their image and data in this manner and Getty Images is at the forefront of addressing these very real concerns,” Reinitz said.

The enhanced model release provides the simplicity of the legacy release form because it’s intuitive, easy to execute and accepted across multiple agencies, ensuring that a photographer or videographer can submit a single completed form to multiple agencies, Reinitz said.

Further information on Getty’s image rights and clearances and the contributors form mentioned above can be found on Getty’s website.

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