House Committee Hears Testimony as Lawmakers Mull Facial Recognition Regulations

Biometrics News - House Committee Hears Testimony as Lawmakers Mull Facial Recognition Regulations

The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform held its third hearing on facial recognition technology this week, as House members work on a bill aimed at regulating the use of this technology.

At present, little is known about the legislation’s details, but the Committee on Oversight and Reform extended the opportunity to comment on the matter to industry representatives.

For its part, the Security Industry Association sent Jake Parker, its senior director of government relations, to give testimony. Parker asserted his organization’s view that facial recognition “must only be used for purposes that are lawful, ethical and non-discriminatory,” but suggested that regulation of the technology “only makes sense in the context of a national data privacy policy that includes biometric information – the subject of a broader ongoing debate.” The SIA itself, meanwhile, is working with its members on the industry’s own set of principles for the use of facial recognition technology, Parker said.

Parker also commented specifically on the recent National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study confirming that a number of facial recognition algorithms show systemic bias in terms of variations in accuracy between different races and genders, offering a different perspective on the matter than many headlines covering the news might have suggested. “The most significant takeaway from the NIST report is that it confirms current facial recognition technology performs far better across racial groups than is widely reported,” he said.

Meredith Whittaker, a co-director of New York University’s AI Now Institute, offered a different perspective, highlighting the need to establish rules about informed consent with respect to the use of facial recognition technology. “I think we need to pause the technology and let the rest of it catch up so that we don’t allow corporate interests and corporate technology to race ahead and be built into our core infrastructure without having put the safeguards in place,” she testified.

The Committee members themselves, meanwhile, seemed committed to the idea of a ‘pause’ on deployments of facial recognition technology, in order to ensure that effective regulatory legislation can be put in place before biometric surveillance gets out of hand. “Facial recognition technology has benefits, to be sure,” said Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney. “But we should not rush to deploy it until we understand the potential risks and mitigate them.”

Sources: Nextgov, The Washington Post, SIA

January 17, 2020 – by Alex Perala