Senators Pitch Temporary Facial Recognition Ban, Leave Door Wide Open For Abuse By Federal Agencies

from the take-another-pass-or-three-before-sending-this-out-for-a-vote-pls dept

Here's a promising development on the facial recognition front -- one that won't make facial recognition tech developers very happy. Bans have been popping up around the nation but this legislative pitch would (sort of) prevent the federal government from deploying the tech.

On Wednesday, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation to place a moratorium on the use of facial recognition by the federal government or with federal funds—unless Congress passed regulations for the technology.

The Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act aims to create a 13 member congressional commission representing interested parties—including law enforcement, communities subjected to surveillance, and privacy experts.

It's a temporary ban but it's better than doing nothing about the federal government's enthusiasm for unproven tech. The DHS has been pushing for this tech to be deployed everywhere travelers might board conveyances or cross borders. Federal law enforcement agencies are just as interested in using this tech despite its horrible track record, amassing large collections of facial pictures and granting access to just about any local agency expressing an interest in rolling the dice on biased software. Then there's Clearview, which is its own monstrosity -- one that implicates far more variables than government access.

Unfortunately, there's a big exception carved out for law enforcement agencies, which would include DHS components assigned to borders and airports. The only thing keeping this bill from being completely useless is that the exception is tied to a warrant requirement, which means no more biometric scanning at international airports.

Or maybe it doesn't. The bill [PDF] doesn't specifically address the Constitutional no-man's land that are our border crossings and international airports. So, it may be possible for law enforcement agencies working in these areas to abide by the partial ban while still ignoring the warrant requirement because the normal rules just don't apply within 100 miles of any border crossing.

That's not to say it's a terrible bill. It just could have been a much better bill. It will prevent inland use of facial recognition tech without a warrant and, importantly, would force the federal government to develop and implement standards governing its use and (hopefully) set some baselines contractors would need to meet before selling their tech to government agencies.

At this point, the only thing Congress has done in response to the rapid deployment of facial recognition tech is express its concern and suggest some hearings might be in order. What it hasn't done is prevent the sketchy tech from being deployed as rapidly as government agencies can nail down contracts. Hitting the pause button for a few years is a far better idea than allowing things to continue to run towards the direction of amok, especially when it has been made clear most companies' offerings are biased and inaccurate.

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Filed Under: ban, cory booker, facial recognition, jeff merkley


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Feb 2020 @ 3:07pm

    Commission Makup

    "...create a 13 member congressional commission representing interested parties—including law enforcement, communities subjected to surveillance, and privacy experts."

    Let's see:

    3 FBI
    3 DHS
    3 CBP
    2 from communities subjected to surveillance and members of right wing groups
    2 privacy experts

    Majority rules apply and false positives are not counted as errors in any reports they make.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2020 @ 10:18pm

      Re: Commission Makup

      Its going to get to where if you have the coronavirus and are walking down the street, it will become a criminal act. With testing kits soon to be only a 15 minute ordeal, forced quarantine will be the norm. But facial recognition will not be so much of a problem with most people wearing surgical masks in public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 8:10am

        Re: Re: Commission Makup

        Meh. All the reports we've got so far indicate that the coronavirus only spreads in non-trivial amounts in places with really poor sanitation. So it's nothing to worry about in America, unless you're living in San Francisco or something.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 5:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Commission Makup

          Well, I would like to think that was true. But over 700 people on a cruise liner got sick quick. It is very contagious. These particles dry from your sneeze or cough and then go airborne from where ever they are, from whatever they have been sneezed or coughed on. Be it a shirt or coatsleeve or a tissue or open air. These little virii don't die, but float around in the air or lay on your money in your wallet, or from a welcome handshake. Your dinner gets served at a fancy resturaunt and the virus is on your plate. Go to the laundrymat and people who don't even know they have contracted it are shaking their clothes around and that coronavirus is once again airborne. Touch a handle at the gas pump and you got it because this crap can lay dormant for more than a week on some surfaces. It can float down into a water source and be drank by your cat and you pick it up from them. All this remains to be seen and hopefully it is not all verified and the coronavirus meets an unexpected end, but so far NOT HAPPENING.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 5:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Commission Makup

            They should be designing a type of Disinfectant Bomb that can be deployed in known areas where it is spreading. Flyovers with aerosol disinfectants might be helpful. Household disinfectant bombs also could give this virus hell and weaken its longevity. Testkits have to be made in a hurry that are accurate. Pirbright has a patent for cornavirus since 2015 and it seems very suspicious that in all the time subsequent, there has not been a vaccine made or medicine that would HELP THE HUMAN RACE.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 25 Feb 2020 @ 4:48pm

    Senators Pitch Temporary Facial Recognition Ban, Leave Door Wide Open For Abuse By Federal Agencies

    That's always the point, isn't it?

    Minimum wage law - but government agencies are exempt.

    Unionization - but government agencies are exempt.

    'Privacy' law - but government agencies are exempt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2020 @ 7:39pm

    Why do we speak of regulation which is impossible to achieve? It makes me laugh, what are senators going to do? It's not like code runs on the "World Computer" and they can run code police on the registers. Ban or not, it's totally unenforcable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Feb 2020 @ 9:29pm

    Headline making soundbites.... with nothing useful behind it.
    'MERIKA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 3:15am

    Maybe they should talk to an expert

    Or, re-establish the congressional research office.

    Meanwhile, see Schneier:

    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2020/01/modern_mass_sur.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 10:00am

    Just wait until Getty tries to claim the copyright on Ring's facial recognition images. Popcorn futures will skyrocket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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