The Washington State House of Representatives and the Senate have reached an agreement on new legislation regulating the use of facial recognition technology.
Under the newly-passed Senate Bill 6280 — which the lawmakers are calling “one of the first and most comprehensive laws to regulate facial recognition technology in the nation” — facial recognition technologies must be tested for fairness, in light of recent studies showing that the technology is biased against women and people of color.
“The agreement we reached is a sensible compromise. I am confident that this bill now provides adequate guardrails for this emerging technology.” said Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), one of the bill’s sponsors. It will mandate community input in how facial recognition technology is used and ensure that any use by the government is thoroughly vetted for accuracy, necessity, and fairness,” she added.
The bill also states that law enforcement agencies would need to secure a court order or warrant in order to use facial recognition, while also placing responsibility on the state government to form a task force for the study of how public agencies should use and deploy such technologies.
Furthermore, under the bill any public entities that use facial recognition to make decisions that result in “legal effects” — including decisions that could affect a person’s job, access to financial services, housing, insurance or education — must be reviewed by a human before any final decision is made.
“This is historic,” said state Sen. Joe Nguyen, who is both a sponsor of the bill and an employee of Microsoft. “I don’t know of any other jurisdiction, for sure in the United States, maybe in the world, where it requires the company to expose their underlying data … in a way that we can test it for accuracy,” he added.
Washington is home to tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, who have both previously supported regulating the facial recognition industry. The state also is considered by many to be one of the leaders of tech-related legislation, being the first state to pass its own net neutrality law back in 2018.
March 16, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis