Democratic legislators in the state of New York have called for a five-year ban on facial recognition technology. The new bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez of the Bronx and Sen. Brad Hoylman of New York City in the state Assembly and the state Senate, respectively.
The legislation specifically concerns the use of facial recognition (and any other form of biometric surveillance) in the body cams worn by the police. Bill A.10913/S.6776 would place a blanket moratorium on the technology for the next five years, which would presumably give state legislators the time they need to craft more nuanced regulations, and for facial recognition providers to deliver solutions that protect the civil liberties of New York citizens.
As it stands, Fernandez and Hoylman noted that many facial recognition systems have been shown to have a demonstrable racial bias that makes them less accurate when asked to identify people of color. The legislators specifically cited a 2018 MIT and Stanford study that found that two top facial recognition programs had an error rate of more than 34 percent for dark-skinned women, and a separate ACLU study that found that Amazon’s Rekognition program incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress to faces in a mugshot database.
The NIST has also found evidence of bias in its more comprehensive analysis of 189 different facial recognition algorithms.
“Given the serious concerns that have been raised, New York’s law enforcement should not presently be permitted to deploy or rely on demonstrably inaccurate, flawed technology as a policing tool that could potentially lead to wrongful arrest or imprisonment,” wrote Fernandez and Hoylman in their legislative justification.
A group of Congressional Democrats that includes Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley have introduced similar legislation at the Federal level, tabling a bill that would bar federal agencies from spending money on facial recognition technology without Congressional approval. The bill would also withhold federal grant money from local governments that do not have their own bans.
The European Union, meanwhile, was reportedly considering its own temporary ban at the beginning of the year, although those plans have been scrapped for the time being.
Source: The Post-Journal
September 9, 2020 – by Eric Weiss