House Calls for Regulating Use of Facial Recognition Software

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security has determined that the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement should be regulated. Subcommittee chair Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and top Republican Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) agreed that there should be “some kind of meaningful regulation and oversight of facial recognition.” Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that federal law enforcement agencies should do more to prevent facial recognition bias and misuse.

Bloomberg reports that, “the issue has been addressed in Congressional hearings before but recent protests for racial justice have brought it into focus again.” Biggs and Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) said “last month lawmakers were close to an agreement on a bill to make law enforcement officers more accountable for injuries and deaths they cause.”

The GAO revealed that “about half of the 42 agencies it surveyed use facial-recognition systems.”

At the subcommittee hearing, Robert Williams “told lawmakers how he was misidentified by a facial-recognition system and wrongfully arrested by Detroit police.” Studies have consistently found that, “people of color are disproportionately likely to be misidentified by facial-recognition systems.”

The GAO reported that some agencies, “such as Customs and Border Protection, have their own in-house facial recognition technology” and others use Clearview AI or Vigilant Solutions. “To add untested and unvetted facial recognition technology to our policing would only serve to exacerbate the systemic issues still plaguing our criminal justice system,” Jackson Lee said.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that, “a new coalition of civil rights organizations is calling on retailers to stop using facial recognition tools to screen shoppers, saying the technology can lead to abuses.” The coalition now numbers 35+ organizations, “including Public Citizen and the National Lawyers Guild” and the group is urging Albertsons, Macy’s and other companies “not to use facial recognition screening tools on employees or customers, citing concerns over privacy and racial justice.”

Fight for the Future, one of the group’s leading the effort, “said such technology could facilitate the exclusion of low-income shoppers, the exploitation of workers or the reporting of undocumented people to immigration officials.” Fight for the Future campaign director Caitlin Seeley George said that, “companies say they offer facial recognition in the name of ‘convenience’ and ‘personalization,’ but their real priorities are protecting and predicting their profits, ignoring how they abuse peoples’ rights.”

Lowe’s, which uses facial recognition “to enhance security, protect against theft and other crimes and to monitor in-store traffic patterns, customer counts and interests, and perform similar analytics,” is being sued in Illinois.

Retail Stores Are Packed with Unchecked Facial Recognition, Civil Rights Organizations Say, The Verge, 7/14/21
From Macy’s to Ace Hardware, Facial Recognition Is Already Everywhere, Vox, 7/15/21
Backlash to Retail Use of Facial Recognition Grows After Michigan Teen Unfairly Kicked Out of Skating Rink, ZDNet, 7/15/21

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