Michigan Lawmakers Call for Examination of Facial Recognition and Racial Bias

Biometrics News - Michigan Lawmakers Call for Examination of Facial Recognition and Racial Bias

Detroit lawmakers are expressing concern about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology. City council member Roy McCalister, Jr. will be discussing the technology at an upcoming community forum, while US Representative Brenda Lawrence is planning to introduce legislation that would regulate the technology at the federal level.

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners formally approved the use of facial recognition technology on September 19, although doing so essentially gave retroactive permission to a scheme that was already in place. The city of Detroit has installed 500 surveillance cameras since 2016 and the police have had access to those cameras for much of that time.

While Lawrence did not necessarily oppose the use of facial recognition, she was worried about the effects of the technology’s potential racial bias in Detroit, which is 80 percent black.

“Currently, there are no federal regulations that actively govern the use of the facial recognition software,” said Lawrence. “My bill will require the government to evaluate the technology for bias concerns and review best training and hiring practices to ensure this tool remains race neutral.” 

While many police departments have displayed enthusiasm for facial recognition, the technology has been less popular with the general public. It was recently revealed that the UK Home Office deployed a system with known racial biases, while San Francisco is one of several cities to ban law enforcement’s use of the technology in the past few months.

In the Michigan state legislature, lawmakers have considered a moratorium on facial recognition until more research can be conducted.

Sources: Detroit Metro Times, CBS Detroit

October 15, 2019 – by Eric Weiss