A group of Democrat lawmakers introduced a bill on Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from using any facial recognition technology, The Hill reports.
The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would outlaw all federal groups from using facial recognition technologies. If implemented, the ban could only be lifted by an act of Congress. The prohibition would extend to other biometric surveillance systems, including voice recognition tools and any other types of technology that use physical characteristics to identify an individual.
The bill would also withhold federal funding from any state and local government group, including law enforcement, that failed to follow the ban. Information obtained through the use of the banned technology would not be admissible in court.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Edward Markey, D- Mass, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
The proposed act comes amid calls for racial justice in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.
Those opposed to the use of facial recognition say it poses more of a bias toward non-white people. The backlash against its use has prompted companies including Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft to pump the brakes on facial recognition work with law enforcement agencies.
On Wednesday, the Boston City Council unanimously agreed to ban government groups from using facial recognition technologies.
Pressley, whose district covers a large portion of Boston, said “facial recognition technology is fundamentally flawed, systemically biased, and has no place in our society.”
“Black and brown people are already over-surveilled and over-policed, and it’s critical that we prevent government agencies from using this faulty technology to surveil communities of color even further,” Pressley said in a statement.
“Facial recognition technology doesn’t just pose a grave threat to our privacy, it physically endangers Black Americans and other minority populations in our country,” Markey said in a statement. “As we work to dismantle the systematic racism that permeates every part of our society, we can’t ignore the harms that these technologies present.”
Merkley added that “at a time when Americans are demanding that we address systemic racism in law enforcement, the use of facial recognition technology is a step in the wrong direction.”
Several advocacy groups have expressed support for the bill.
“No one should have to fear the government tracking and identifying their face wherever they go,” ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement. “It's past time Congress halted the use of face recognition and stopped federal money from being used to invest in invasive and discriminatory surveillance. This bill should immediately pass.”
Civil rights advocacy group Color of Change was also showed support for the bill.
“For Black communities, surveillance is not safety,” Color of Change Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter said in a statement. “We endorse Sen. Markey and Rep. Pressley's proposed ban on facial recognition technology because it recognizes the bias baked into its coding, and that especially in the hands of the police, it is a dangerous surveillance tool."
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