Virginia lawmakers have passed new regulations restricting the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, though the move has already led to some pushback from law enforcement officials.
The new legislation, which was passed last month in Richmond and received bipartisan support, states that any local law enforcement agencies (including campus police) that wish to purchase or use facial recognition technology can only do so after receiving authorization from the state legislature.
Critics of the legislation argue that it’s too broad, and are asking Gov. Ralph Northam for more time to get familiar with the new landscape.
“I think a lot of people want to know what impact that is going to have on public safety and a lot of other industries if you do away with it,” said John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. “It is a way to catch bad guys — you can catch really bad actors — and that’s always a good thing,” he added.
Despite the fact that it has its critics, the bill itself received very little in the way of resistance as its lead sponsor, Delaware Democrat Lashrecse Aird, found support on both sides of the aisle with no lawmakers from either party voting against its passing.
Aird noted the use of controversial firm Clearview AI by detectives in the Norfolk Police Department — which officials at the department acknowledged was in fact true — as the impetus behind her drafting of the bill.
“Citizens should have control of and awareness of whether or not their law enforcement officers are using this type of technology,” Aird said. “The immediate baseline-level concern is that these databases have misidentified people on a large scale, particularly anyone with significant pigmentation, so black and brown people.”
Clearview has been the subject of a number of high-profile cases for more than a year now, ever since the New York Times published a front-page story that revealed that the New York startup had scraped social media sites to gather billions of images for its database, which it then sold to law enforcement agencies around the world.
Virginia now joins a list of at least 20 cities in five states that have placed some sort of ban or restriction on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement agencies, though Virginia’s legislation is receiving some praise as among the most stringent thus far, with the ACLU’s senior policy counsel on privacy, surveillance and technology Chad Marlow calling it one of “the strongest state and municipal bans in the country.”
Source: News 95.7
April 5, 2021 – by Tony Bitzionis