Montana’s law enforcement agencies are trying to secure their access to facial recognition. The state is currently considering a draft version of a new biometric data protection bill that would limit access to the technology in the public sector. However, the draft does carve out certain exceptions, and would allow the police to use facial recognition to investigate homicides and other serious crimes.
The police are lobbying to protect those exemptions. Several departments made the request at a recent hearing to discuss the bill, and they asked lawmakers to avoid passing overly harsh restrictions that would prevent them from using facial recognition in the future.
Many of Montana’s city and county-level law enforcement agencies are not yet using facial recognition, though their stance indicates that they would like to do so in the future. In the meantime, other departments have procured facial recognition tech from partners in the private sector The state’s Labor Department is using ID.me’s controversial software to prevent unemployment fraud, while the Department of Corrections uses biometric devices from Compliance Monitoring Systems to verify the identities of parolees and probationers during their mandatory drug tests.
In both cases, user biometric data is stored with the private party rather than the government agency. The Department of Justice does have access to facial recognition through the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD), and through the Montana Analysis and Technical Information Center (MATIC). The former can only perform one-to-one matches, while MATIC can be used for larger one-to-many searches, though the Deputy Attorney General claims that the service has only been used 14 times since 2015.
The proposed legislation would cover data retention in addition to facial recognition. Organizations would be expected to delete biometric data after three years, or after completing the task that necessitated its capture in the first place. Montana’s CISO spoke strongly in favor of the bill, citing the sensitive nature of biometric data.
“I do want to make it clear that biometric data, including facial recognition data, is our citizens’ most sensitive information that the state can hold,” said Montana CISO Andy Hanks. “Our biometric data is the one thing about us that we cannot change. So if our biometric data is ever stolen, we may spend the rest of our lives fighting identity theft, including financial tax and medical fraud. So it’s very important that we apply stringent mandatory minimum controls to protect this data whenever we use it.”
Montana is the latest state to try to strike a balance with a facial recognition bill. Virginia, for instance, recently passed a new law that allows the police to use the technology within certain parameters.
Source: Independent Record
July 21, 2022 – by Eric Weiss