The city of New Orleans is already looking to walk back its facial recognition ban. The city’s current ban has been in effect since December of 2020, and was passed to rein in the New Orleans Police Department after it admitted that it had been lying about its prior use of facial recognition. The NOPD had previously denied any use (or even ownership) of facial recognition tech, but eventually acknowledged that it had been using it in investigations for several years.
However, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell now believes that the ban may have gone too far. She is now calling for a full repeal to restore the NOPD’s ability to use the technology. Her latest request is a response to a series of violent crimes that recently took place in the city.
If the law does get repealed, NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson has stated that the department would create policies to guide its future use of the technology. On that front, Mayor Cantrell’s proposed ordinance would reserve the use of facial recognition for investigations into certain kinds of violent crimes and sex crimes, including those committed against minors. It would also allow the police to use more sweeping face-based surveillance technology to find violent suspects after a warrant has been issued.
However, the NOPD is yet to put any formal policy in place, and the same privacy advocates that backed the initial bill are still worried about the potential for abuse. The Eye on Surveillance Coalition noted that police facial recognition systems have led to false arrests in the past, and have historically been shown to be less accurate when applied to people with darker skin. The fact that the Mayor’s preferred ordinance goes beyond simple investigation and supports some police surveillance applications could be another point of contention.
The news demonstrates that the debate over facial recognition is far from settled, even in places that have legislated restrictions on the technology. Police departments all over the world have fought to retain the right to use facial recognition, and the scope of those programs will continue to be a topic of debate as other jurisdictions try to introduce their own regulations. Virginia is already planning to amend its own facial recognition ban, though the state framed its initial ban as a stopgap to give legislators more time to craft more informed guidelines.
Source: State Scoop
February 25, 2022 – by Eric Weiss