Utah Poll Finds Public Support for Facial Recognition

Biometrics News - Utah Poll Finds Public Support for Facial Recognition

The Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University have released the results of a poll that shows that Utah citizens are surprisingly comfortable with facial recognition. The poll was conducted after federal law enforcement officers used facial recognition to scan the state’s entire driver’s license database in a search for suspects.

According to the survey, 63 percent of the respondents approved of such behavior. Only 29 percent were opposed, while the remaining respondents were unsure.  

The findings are somewhat at odds with the response of Utah lawmakers, who have been highly critical of the law enforcement actions. State Senator Kirk Cullimore has proposed legislation that would establish clear guidelines for the use of facial recognition in Utah, and Representative Mike Lee has tabled a similar bill at the national level. The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act would require law enforcement to obtain a court order before engaging in face-based surveillance.

The citizens who approved of the technology indicated that they weren’t worried about facial recognition because they didn’t think they had done anything illegal. However, privacy advocates argued that that support should not deter any lawmakers hoping to pass stricter regulations.

“Just because there appear to be many people who are fine with government surveillance does not mean that the government should have unfettered access to surveil people,” said Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack.

As it stands, Utah’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the only Utah state organization that is allowed to use facial recognition. A spokesperson for the Utah Attorney General’s office confirmed that they had met with Clearview AI, but had opted not to use the controversial system. A DPS spokesperson similarly confirmed that DPS was not working with Clearview, and did not know of any Utah law enforcement agencies that had licensed the solution.

Utah is one of a growing number of jurisdictions taking steps to restrict the public use of facial recognition. The city of Cambridge, MA, passed its own ban earlier in the year.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

February 13, 2020 – by Eric Weiss