Democrats in Congress are planning to reintroduce legislation that would ban federal agencies from using facial recognition technology.
As Reuters reports, Representative Pramila Jayapal is one of the individuals behind the effort. She co-sponsored a facial recognition ban with Representative Ayanna Pressley and Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley last year, but the bill ultimately failed to be passed. Now, Jayapal has indicated through a spokesperson that members of Congress are preparing to table it again under the new administration.
Congressional Democrats also proposed legislation last year that would restrict law enforcement officers from using facial recognition technology through body cameras, further signalling the political appetite for such regulations. The efforts have generally been in response to growing concerns about police use of facial recognition in particular, due to its privacy implications and the risk of racial bias.
As the Reuters report suggests, the plans to reintroduce the biometric ban legislation are notably being formulated even as facial recognition technology is used to identify some of the insurgents in the US Capitol riots earlier this month – an attack that directly threatened members of Congress. Facial recognition specialist XRVision has used the technology to identify members of QAnon and Nazi organizations, and municipal police agencies have been using the controversial Clearview AI platform to find tips for the FBI.
That having been said, most of the almost 100 insurgents who have been criminally charged thus far had turned themselves in, or been identified through social media posts or acquaintances. It is too early to determine whether facial recognition technology will have played an important role in the overall effort to apprehend the US Capitol attackers; nor is it clear that the impending regulatory legislation will ultimately be passed into law under the new Congress.
January 20, 2021 – by Alex Perala