A group of Democratic lawmakers – and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders – have reintroduced legislation that would ban the use of facial recognition technology by federal authorities.
The legislation had previously been introduced in both houses during the previous Congress, but never made it past the committee phase. In the wake of last year’s election, reports emerged in January that certain Democrats in Congress, including Representative Pramila Jayapal, Representative Ayanna Pressley, and Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, were planning to reintroduce the bill.
Now, it’s back, with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Bernie Sanders, as well as Representative Rashida Tlaib, also supporting the bill.
In addition to preventing federal government agencies from using facial recognition technology, the bill would also prevent the use of federal funding for biometric surveillance systems, and would tie federal grant funding to local bans on biometric technology, according to a NextGov report. The bill has received the approval of civil rights groups including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The legislation could see a mixed reception even among some Democrats in the aftermath of the January 6 capitol riots, with law enforcement authorities having turned to facial recognition technology in their efforts to identify the individuals who wreaked havoc in the US Capitol building in protest of November’s election result.
That having been said, there is growing concern over the use of facial recognition technologies by government agencies including law enforcement groups, not just due to privacy issues, but also because of the potential for racial and gender bias, which have been documented in facial recognition algorithms.
“This legislation will not only protect civil liberties but aggressively fight back against racial injustice by stopping federal entities from using facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools while stripping support for state and local law enforcement departments that continue its use,” explained Representative Jayapal in a statement.
June 18, 2021 – by Alex Perala