Bipartisan Law Regulating Facial Recognition Being Planned

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform held its third hearing in less than a year on facial recognition, planning to introduce legislation to regulate its use by the federal government, law enforcement and the private sector. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) stated the draft legislation will appear in the “very near future” and noted the need to “explore” the privacy protections already in place. Facial recognition is already in use with smartphones, job interviews and in airports.

VentureBeat reports that, according to the AI Index report, “facial recognition was found to be one of the biggest areas of investment in 2019 among AI startups and businesses.”

Topics discussed included “the need to require opt-in consent before using a person’s photo to train a model, the need to meet high performance standards before governmental deployment, regulation that protects against facial recognition being used at political rallies or protests, and protections to guard against overpolicing of schools or deployment by law enforcement to make arrests.”

“There should be something in our civil rights law and our justice system that does not allow a person to be persecuted based on the fact that we know this data is not adequate and it has biases,” said congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan), whose constituents are mainly people of color. Lawrence already introduced a bill to support ethical AI last year.

San Francisco and San Diego have “passed bans or moratoriums on the use of the tech by city agencies or law enforcement.” Some of the big tech companies, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have also asked the government for guidance.

In spring 2019, House Oversight and Reform hearings “examined facial recognition’s potential to violate the First and Fourth Amendments due to the technology’s tendency to discriminate.”

The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also released a report on facial recognition that analyzed “nearly 100 businesses, including leaders like SenseTime and Microsoft,” finding evidence of racial bias, especially for women of color. There were also “higher rates of false positive identification” for the elderly, children and women overall.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) “called for protections against automation of injustice or biases that ‘compound on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley as well’.” Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stressed the bipartisan nature of the concerns, noting, “I think that this is where conservatives and progressives come together, and it’s on defending our civil liberties [and] … our Fourth Amendment rights, and it is that right to privacy.”

Last May, Amazon shareholders, however, rejected “a proposal to halt sale of Amazon’s facial analysis software Rekognition to governments.”