Utah’s facial recognition bill has officially made it through both houses of the state legislature after clearing the House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill previously made it through the Senate with an overwhelming margin of 24-3, and now heads to the Governor’s desk for a final signature before becoming law.
The version of the bill that made it through the legislature is virtually identical to the one that was proposed back in January, which was itself an attempt to codify the state’s internal guidelines for the use of facial recognition. In that regard, the bill is far less rigid than those that have been passed in other jurisdictions that have banned the public use of facial recognition.
The Utah bill, on the other hand, allows public agencies to use facial recognition as long as certain guidelines are followed. Most notably, law enforcement officers must submit a written request before performing a facial recognition search, and must be able to provide a valid reason for doing so. Such a request will only be granted if it is necessary to further a felony investigation, and only if the police are able to demonstrate that the subject of the search is likely connected with the specific crime they are looking into.
Facial recognition can also be used if there is an immediate threat to human life, or if someone cannot verify their own identity because they are dead or incapacitated. A version of the bill that would have extended coverage to misdemeanor fraud investigations was abandoned after it was determined to be untenable. Two trained employees will need to confirm each match once a facial recognition search has been authorized.
In addition to governing its use, the bill sets new rules for facial recognition disclosure. State agencies will need to notify citizens when a photo could be used for facial recognition purposes, as is the case when they apply for a driver’s license. However, the bill does not give people the ability to opt out of the facial recognition process. Given those limitations, privacy advocates argued that the bill does not do enough to protect people’s civil liberties, though they still viewed the new guidelines as a step in the right direction.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune
March 5, 2021 – by Eric Weiss