Members of the United States Congress today submitted a bill The 2020 law on face recognition and biometric technologyThis would prohibit government officials from using federal funds to purchase facial recognition systems or "biometric surveillance systems". It would also hold back federal funding through the Byrne grant program for state and local governments using the technology.
The bill is sponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as well as representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Pressley had previously introduced a bill to ban the use of facial recognition in public housing, while Merkley introduced a bill with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in February to introduce a moratorium on face recognition.
The news comes a day after the Boston City Council unanimously passed a facial recognition ban in the Pressley convention district, one of the largest cities in the United States to do so. This week there was also news about Robert Williamswho is the first person to be falsely accused of a crime and arrested for facial identification due to false identification.
Supporters of a ban on facial recognition argue that facial recognition is also used to combat color communities when problems with racial prejudice and misidentification are solved. The Perpetual Lineup at Georgetown University's Center for Democracy and Technology, which tracks the use of facial recognition by local and federal law enforcement agencies, found that at least one in four local and state law enforcement officers in the United States today have access to facial recognition technology. The group also warns that facial recognition will disproportionately affect African Americans.
“Face detection is a uniquely dangerous form of surveillance. This is not just an Orwellian technology of the future – it is currently being used by law enforcement agencies across the country and is currently harming communities, ”said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, in an online statement shared and published with VentureBeat. “Face detection is the perfect technology for tyranny. It automates discriminatory policing and aggravates existing injustices in our deeply racist criminal justice system. This legislation effectively prohibits the use of facial recognition by law enforcement agencies in the United States. That's exactly what we need now. We give our full approval to this invoice. "
Greer went on to say that Republican lawmakers who claim to support privacy or civil liberties and who vote against the bill would "expose themselves as hypocrites."
Criticism of facial recognition has increased in recent weeks as citizens have called for police reform and even defusing the police to reallocate funds and solve more problems without armed law enforcement. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have agreed to discontinue or end the sale of police face recognition technology earlier this month. Officials from all three companies called for federal regulation of the technology. Both Amazon and Microsoft declined to respond to VentureBeat's questions as to whether their moratoriums apply to federal law enforcement.
The European Commission also considered a five-year moratorium on facial recognition in public places earlier this year, but these plans were rejected.
A lack of Republican sponsors means that while today's bill could move forward in the democratically-run House of Representatives, Republicans can currently hold the majority of seats in the U.S. Senate, blocking the passage.