The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published the transcript of Jennifer Lynch’s testimony to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Lynch is the Surveillance Litigation Director for the EFF, and was invited to address law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology at an April 22 hearing on the subject.
In her testimony, Lynch reiterated many of the EFF’s concerns about facial recognition, pointing out that there is little in the way of quality control and that many facial recognition algorithms are less accurate when trying to identify people of color. She also noted that many law enforcement organizations have deployed facial recognition without any meaningful public oversight, and that there are no laws in place to prevent abuses and privacy violations like those uncovered in the Clearview AI scandal earlier this year.
With that in mind, Lynch presented facial recognition as a severe threat to people’s civil liberties. She asked the Commission to investigate current facial recognition practices at the local, state, and federal level, and to create policy restrictions that limit law enforcement’s access to the technology.
“Widespread use of face recognition by the government—especially to identify people secretly when they walk around in public—will fundamentally change the society in which we live,” said Lynch. “It will, for example, chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate with others.”
The testimony went on to highlight several other abuses of facial recognition technology. For example, law enforcement officers in Florida have failed to disclose the use of facial recognition in criminal investigations, while many of the images used in those (and other) investigations were collected outside the criminal justice system, as in the case of driver’s license photos. As a result, many people do not know that their personal information is being used in facial recognition searches, a fact that partially inspired the EFF’s “Who Has Your Face” project.
Lynch also stressed the accuracy shortcomings of many popular facial recognition systems, including Amazon’s Rekognition. The EFF previously asked Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to suspend the use of facial recognition. In March, the state of Washington passed legislation that could serve as a template for other jurisdictions looking to regulate facial recognition technology.
April 27, 2020 – by Eric Weiss