Ed Markey and Ayanna Pressley propose federal facial recognition ban


A day after the Boston City Council handed an ordinance to ban the town from utilizing facial recognition expertise, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley are pushing to do the identical on the nationwide stage.

The two Massachusetts Democrats, together with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkeley and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, launched laws Thursday to ban federal businesses from utilizing biometric expertise, together with facial recognition instruments, amid evidence that most systems disproportionately misidentify darker-skinned people.

It would additionally withhold federal criminal justice grants from state and native governments that don’t impose their very own moratoriums on such expertise.

Markey, a long-time privateness advocate locked in a detailed re-election race in opposition to Rep. Joe Kennedy III, stated that he had “spent years pushing back against the proliferation of facial recognition surveillance systems.” But within the wake of an energized racial justice motion following the killing of George Floyd by police, the senator stated the “moment” known as for an all-out ban on its use by the federal government, together with the FBI and different legislation enforcement businesses.

“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,” he stated in an announcement. “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.”

In 2018, an MIT study on the three facial recognition packages developed and offered by Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM discovered that dark-skinned girls had been misidentified practically 35 p.c of the time, in comparison with an error charge of lower than 1 p.c for white males. And a wider government study final yr of packages launched by practically 100 different builders discovered the same racial disparity.

“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 stated.

Following the latest protests in opposition to police brutality, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM all announced they’d not let legislation enforcement businesses use their packages till federal laws are handed.

The new invoice Thursday was endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has campaigned for more than a year for a ban on facial recognition, at the least till Congress passes extra legal guidelines to manage its use. In addition to privateness issues in regards to the unregulated use of expertise that may robotically observe and surveil folks primarily based on bodily options, the group has highlighted several instances during which Americans had been wrongly arrested primarily based on a misidentification.

“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,” Neema Singh Guliani, a lawyer for the ACLU, stated in an announcement Thursday. “This bill should immediately pass.”

The laws wouldn’t preempt any “more stringent” native legal guidelines; a number of cities in California and Massachusetts  have already handed their very own moratoriums in opposition to face surveillance expertise. On Wednesday, Boston turned the most recent metropolis — and second-largest behind San Francisco — to approve a ban in opposition to metropolis officers utilizing such packages.

However, the laws launched Thursday goes additional than simply facial recognition packages. It would additionally prohibit the federal government use of biometric recognition applied sciences, primarily based on an individual’s voice, gate, or “other immutable physical characteristics.” It would additionally prohibit the federal government from paying third-parties for biometric surveillance methods and provides residents an specific proper to sue if officers are discovered to have violated the ban, which might solely be lifted by extra laws handed by Congress.

Upon passage of the invoice, state and native governments that aren’t “complying with a law or policy that is substantially similar” can be ineligible to obtain federal cash underneath the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (a tactic just like how President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to put pressure on so-called sanctuary cities).

Law enforcement officers have stated facial recognition applied sciences is usually a great tool for locating lacking individuals or figuring out legal suspects. However, a number of native police departments, together with in Boston, have pledged to not use facial recognition till is it confirmed to be extra dependable.

The FBI, which has its personal in-house facial recognition methods, has stated it “strictly governs” using packages and requires extra human evaluation earlier than any motion is taken. At the identical time, in congressional testimony last year, the company famous that it has “no authority to set or enforce accuracy standards” of separate facial recognition expertise operated by accomplice businesses.

Merkley, the co-sponsor of the Senate model of the invoice with Markey, stated the federal government shouldn’t be working such expertise “until we have confidence that it doesn’t exacerbate racism and violate the privacy of American citizens.”

“Between the risks of sliding into a surveillance state we can’t escape from and the dangers of perpetuating discrimination, this technology is not ready for prime time,” he stated.