Four Democratic lawmakers want to ban the federal government from using facial recognition technology. Led by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, the group plans to introduce The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to Congress. If passed, the bill would prohibit federal authorities from using the technology alongside several other biometric tools like voice recognition. Perhaps even more significantly, state and local entities, including law enforcement agencies, would need to pass their own moratoriums to secure funding from the federal government.
In laying out the need for policy intervention, the group cites a report from The National Institute of Standards and Technology. The organization recently found that people of color are up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified by facial recognition technology than white males. The lawmakers also point to last year's wrongful arrest of Robert Williams. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the incident is the first known instance of a wrongful arrest in the US based on an incorrect facial recognition match.
While organizations like the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have come out in support of the proposed legislation, it won't be easy to pass in an evenly split Senate and little more than a year away from the 2022 primary election. As things stand, a handful of US cities like Boston have banned facial recognition, but those prohibitions don't prevent federal authorities from using the technology in those communities.