Senators Continue to Push Legislation Curbing Facial Recognition Use By Federal and State Governments

Posted on March 15, 2023

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey has formally reintroduced his “Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act”. Initially debuted in the Senate chambers in 2021, Markey has been persistent in reintroducing it.

If passed, the bill would be a first for regulating how the federal government deploys facial recognition technology. Additionally, it would discourage states from deviating from the standards imposed on the federal government by threatening to withhold law enforcement grants to state and local governments for noncompliance.

The act makes it illegal for any agency of the US federal government to use facial recognition biometrics, or any data derived from such technology, except that which Congress explicitly approves. Such congressional approvals must expressly state

  1. The allowed uses for such technology,
  2. The data retention and access policies which will govern the data collected using the technology,
  3. The “auditing requirements” (including minimum accuracy thresholds) which the technology will be held to,
  4. The safeguards implemented to prevent racially disparate impact, and
  5. The free speech and association protections which will be observed to limit the technology’s deployment.

The measure further allows any injured party to sue the federal government for noncompliance. State attorneys general would also be empowered to bring suits against the federal government on behalf of residents.

To incentivize states to adhere to these standards, the bill disqualifies non-compliant states from receiving law enforcement grants under the grant component of the “Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968”.

Markey’s proposal is not uncharted territory in the US. Illinois leads the protection of personal biometric data (including facial recognition data) with its Biometric Information Protection Act (or “BIPA”).

Presently, the bill is the best hope of enshrining the right to privacy of facial data from coast to coast. Getting a majority of senators behind the effort would go a long way putting these safeguards one step closer to realization.

For more information on the bill, see the original article from Engadget here.