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Bill would block police from using facial recognition tech with body cam footage

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The use of facial recognition technology and other biometric surveillance is becoming increasingly widespread by law enforcement. At present there is no regulation of this technology at the federal level.

A 2019 National Institute for Standards and Technology report found that algorithms used in FRT misidentified more people of color than white people and misidentified women more than men. It went on to note that high error rates attributed to algorithmic bias.

Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) have reintroduced the Facial Recognition Ban on Body Cameras Act, legislation to prohibit federal law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition technology and other biometric surveillance tools on footage from body cameras.

The bill would also prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from purchasing body cameras with those capabilities using federal funds.

“Once-futuristic technologies like FRT and biometric tools are now increasingly in use by law enforcement in American communities, but Congress is woefully behind in considering the implications of their deployment for civil liberties,” said Beyer. “We must not allow tools which are designed to protect Americans’ civil rights to be used to systematically violate them. The evidence of both individual incidents and broad studies suggests that flaws in the design and use of these technologies are already leading to negative, unintended consequences, and not nearly enough is being done to take these concerns into account at the federal level. Police-worn body cameras are supposed to improve transparency and accountability, and our bill would maintain that vital purpose and help prevent the rise of mass, roving government surveillance.”

“I’m pleased to join Congressman Beyer on this important legislation to prohibit law enforcement from using facial recognition technology on images obtained through police-worn body cameras,” said Rep. Lieu. “The use of facial recognition technology can have several risks, including accuracy and bias issues that disproportionately impact people of color. If this technology is going to be deployed in law enforcement settings, it needs to be regulated. Body cameras are used to protect Americans’ civil rights, and we can’t allow those rights to be violated through the unregulated use of surveillance technology that can result in misidentification.”

The Facial Recognition Ban on Body Cameras Act is also cosponsored by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), and is supported by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI).

“Body cameras are no place for a dangerous and unreliable technology like facial recognition,” said Sarah Turberville, director of The Constitution Project at the Project On Government Oversight. “Face recognition can turn body cams from a tool of accountability in to one of constant surveillance, watching and cataloguing faces and tracking the location of anyone in view. This legislation is vital to prevent us from traveling down a very dystopian road and we applaud Rep. Beyer for his leadership on this critical civil liberties issue.”

Text of the Facial Recognition Ban on Body Cameras Act is available here.



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