A pair of senators from both sides of the political aisle have tabled a new bill that would place restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies.
The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act — sponsored by Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant and prove probable cause before being granted the use of facial recognition technologies. This would place similar restrictions on the use of the tech to what is currently found when trying to obtain warrants for other obtrusive surveillance procedures like wiretaps and cellphone searches.
The bill proposal comes amid calls across the U.S. to curtail the use of biometric tracking technology by police agencies against private citizens.
Just last month, Customs and Border Patrol filed a Request for Information to seek input on the use of body cameras with facial recognition capabilities by their border agents.
The senators sponsoring the bill have been vocal in their belief that it would be a major step in protecting the privacy rights of citizens.
“Right now, there is a lack of uniformity when it comes to how, when, and where the federal government deploys facial recognition technology,” Coons said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill strikes the right balance by making sure law enforcement has the tools necessary to keep us safe while also protecting fundamental Fourth Amendment privacy rights,” he added.
Senator Lee echoed this sentiment, saying the power of this tech is “ripe for abuse” and that Americans need to be protected from it.
“This bill accomplishes that by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting ongoing surveillance of a target,” he said.
However, critics of the bill argue that it is in fact too lenient, and opens even more doors for privacy abuse by law enforcement, with the ACLU’s Neema Singh Guliani saying “this bill would authorize the invasive, persistent, and dystopian surveillance that communities across the country have rejected.”
Calling the bill a ‘band-aid’ solution and asking Congress to “put the brakes” on the tech, she goes on to say that “the bill falls woefully short of protecting people’s privacy rights and is inconsistent with existing Supreme Court precedent.”
The ACLU’s criticism likely stems from the bill’s inclusion of an “exigent circumstances” loophole that would allow the use of facial recognition tech without a court order where it could be argued that it would be “impractical to obtain” and that one would be granted if it were pursued.
November 18, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis