Facial recognition continues to be a political football and a target of privacy activists in the United States. For example, San Diego has suspended its use of facial recognition scanners by law enforcement after a campaign by civil rights groups. The San Diego Tactical Identification System (TACIDS) programme included a database of facial recognition scans shared by 30 local, state and federal agencies.
A California law, passed in the fall, puts a three-year moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition technology.
A proposal in Congress would prohibit use of biometric recognition technology in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), thus protecting the more than two million public housing residents nationwide from being “over-surveilled.” The “No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act” is supported by the NAACP, the National Housing Law Project, National Low-Income Housing Coalition, National Action Network, Color of Change, and the Project on Government Oversight.
The problems of Facial Recognition
"Studies that show that facial recognition systems may misidentify many individuals including women and people of colour" A letter from seven members of Congress to HUD Secretary Ben Carson questioned the use of facial recognition in federally assisted housing because it “could be used to enable invasive, unnecessary and harmful government surveillance of…residents.” The letter cites studies that show that facial recognition systems may misidentify many individuals including women and people of colour, thus “exacerbating vulnerabilities that marginalized groups already face in life.”
In June, Somerville, Mass., became the second U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces. The first was San Francisco.
A coalition of organisations and trade associations has issued a letter to Congress outlining concerns with “blanket prohibitions” or moratoriums on facial recognition technology and listing beneficial uses for public safety, national security and fighting fraud. The Security Industry Association (SIA) is part of the coalition, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
|A letter from seven members of Congress to HUD Secretary Ben Carson questioned the use of facial recognition in federally assisted housing|
Facial recognition technology has benefited Americans in many ways, such as helping to thwart identity thieves" The letter says: “While polls consistently show that Americans trust law enforcement to use facial recognition technology responsibly, some groups have called for lawmakers to enact bans on [the] technology. While we agree that it is important to have effective oversight and accountability of these tools to uphold and protect civil liberties, we disagree that a ban is the best option.”
Development and guidance
As alternatives to outright bans, the letter proposes expanded testing and performance standards, develop of best practices and guidance for law enforcement, and additional training for different uses of the technology.
“Facial recognition technology has benefited Americans in many ways, such as helping to fight human trafficking, thwart identity thieves and improve passenger facilitation at airports and enhance aviation security,” says Don Erickson, CEO of SIA. “SIA believes this advanced technology should be used in a safe, accurate and effective way, and look forward to working with Congress to help the U.S. set the example on how to ethically and responsibly govern this technology.”
SIA has produced a document called “Face Facts: Dispelling Common Myths Associated with Facial Recognition Technology.”