Now is the Time. Tell Congress to Ban Federal Use of Face Recognition
At the local, state, and federal level, people across the country are urging politicians to ban the government’s use of face surveillance because it is inherently invasive and dangerous. Many U.S. cities have done so, including San Francisco and Boston. Now is our chance to end the federal government’s use of this spying technology.
Tell your Senators and Representatives they must pass Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, HR 3907/S.2052. It was recently introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13). This important bill would be a critical step to ensuring that mass surveillance systems don’t use your face to track, identify, or harm you. The bill would ban the use of face surveillance by the federal government, as well as withhold certain federal funds for local and state governments that use the technology.
Cities across the country have banned government use of face surveillance technology, and many more are weighing proposals to do so. From Boston to San Francisco, New Orleans to Minneapolis, elected officials and activists know that face surveillance gives police the power to track us wherever we go, turns us all into perpetual suspects, increases the likelihood of being falsely arrested, and chills people’s willingness to participate in first amendment protected activities.
Face surveillance also disproportionately hurts vulnerable communities. Last year, the New York Times published a long piece on the case of Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, who was arrested by Detroit police after face recognition technology wrongly identified him as a suspect in a theft case. The problem isn’t just that studies have found face recognition disparately inaccurate when it comes to matching the faces of people of color. The larger concern is that law enforcement will use this invasive and dangerous technology, as it unfortunately uses all such tools, to disparately surveil people of color.
This federal ban on face surveillance would apply to increasingly powerful agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Customs and Border Patrol. The bill would ensure that these agencies cannot use this invasive technology to track, identify, and misidentify millions of people.
Face surveillance is the stuff of dystopian science fiction. Let’s ban government use of face surveillance before it’s too late.
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