A group of American congressmen reintroduced legislation last week, calling to stop the use of facial recognition technologies and other biometric technologie,s such as voice recognition, by the federal government – legislation that was first introduced during the previous Congress but was not passed. The bill was drafted by a number of Democrats (including Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey and Rashida Tlaib) together with independent Bernie Sanders, who has been expressing opposition to these technologies for years.
The legislation seeks not only to prohibit federal agencies from using these technologies, but also ban federal funding of them - and by doing so, limit their use by local or state entities, except in cases specified in advance and restricted by law. Also, if data is obtained in a manner contrary to the act, it will not be admissible in court, and private citizens will be able to sue the federal government for breach of privacy.
There is a fierce debate in the US over the effectiveness of facial recognition technology, which is said to identify white people with much greater precision than it does black people and other minorities, and thus it could lead to false arrests among those populations over crimes that they did not commit. This is in addition to great concern over violation of privacy and other citizen rights. Various cities across the U.S. such as Portland, San Francisco, Baltimore and Boston, as well as the state of Virginia, passed local laws regarding prohibitions and restrictions of the use of these technologies. In San Francisco, for example the prohibition applies to the police, while in Baltimore it applies to residents, businesses and the municipality.