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HomeSecurityAccess ControlFace Recognition Technology Is Racist, Say Democrats Calling For Federal Ban

Face Recognition Technology Is Racist, Say Democrats Calling For Federal Ban

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Democrats in both chambers of U.S. Congress have equated face recognition technology with racism and reintroduced legislation that would ban the use of facial recognition – and other biometric technologies – by the U.S. federal government.

The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act was first introduced in 2020 and aims to ban use of facial recognition technology, voice recognition and other biometrics by federal agencies. Financial grants from the federal government to local entities, including police, would be conditional on local bans of biometric technologies.

“This legislation is about rooting out systemic racism and stopping invasive technologies from becoming irreversibly embedded in our society,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass). “We simply cannot ignore the technologies that perpetuate injustice, and that means law enforcement should not be using facial recognition tools today. We do not have to forgo privacy and justice for safety.”

According to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.); “Facial recognition technology is not only invasive, inaccurate, and unregulated but it has also been unapologetically weaponized by law enforcement against black people across this country.

“This legislation will not only protect civil liberties but aggressively fight back against racial injustice by stopping federal entities from using facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools while stripping (financial) support for state and local law enforcement departments that continue its use.”

NIST, which assesses face recognition technologies annually, has found that false positive and false-negative rates of the leading algorithms using mugshots, application photographs from individuals applying for immigration benefits, visa photographs, and images taken of travelers entering the United States, have ‘undetectable’ differences between demographic groups.

When NIST thresholds were set for false-positive rates of 0.01 percent for white males (1 in 10,000), more than half of the 17 most accurate algorithms had false-positive rates of 0.03 per cent or better for black males, Asian men, and white women (3 in 10,000). However, NIST’s testing did find poorer performing algorithms exhibited greater demographic bias.

On Wednesday, the Security Industry Association (SIA) released a statement opposing the legislation. SIA said the legislation would impose a blanket ban on most federal, state and local use of nearly all biometric and related image analytics technologies, which threatens the legitimate, documented benefits of facial recognition technologies used by law enforcement, including:

* Identifying individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
* Reuniting victims of human trafficking with their families and loved ones
* Detecting use of fraudulent documentation by non-citizens at airports of entry
* Aiding counterterrorism investigations in critical situations
* Exonerating innocent individuals accused of crimes.

“Rather than impose sweeping moratoriums, SIA encourages Congress to propose balanced legislation that promulgates reasonable safeguards to ensure that facial recognition technology is used ethically, responsibly and under appropriate oversight and that the United States remains the global leader in driving innovation,” said SIA CEO Don Erickson.

King County, Washington, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Jackson Mississippi, Boston, as well as the states of Virginia and Vermont have already banned the facial recognition technology from use in government applications.


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