Washington State Legislators Pass Bill Blocking Use Of Facial Recognition Tech Without A Warrant

from the over-the-sobbing-of-law-enforcement-agencies dept

We all like a good facial recognition ban, and the state of Washington is the latest to (sort of) tee one up.

The Washington state legislature passed a bill establishing new guardrails on government use of facial recognition software.

The bill cleared both chambers of the state legislature Thursday, hours before the session ended, positioning Washington as one of the first states in the nation to regulate facial recognition, a key component in the larger legal debate over artificial intelligence. The bill now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

Unfortunately, it's not a true ban. But it lays down a set of guidelines that will at least control its use by state agencies. The bill [PDF] requires regular reporting on use and intermittent testing for "fairness and accuracy." It also introduces something most states haven't: a warrant requirement for facial recognition use. This means facial recognition tech can't be an "always on" option for law enforcement.

The bill recognizes the threat facial recognition tech poses to the public.

Unconstrained use of facial recognition services by state and local government agencies poses broad social ramifications that should be considered and addressed. Accordingly, legislation is required to establish safeguards that will allow state and local government agencies to use facial recognition services in a manner that benefits society while prohibiting uses that threaten our democratic freedoms and put our civil liberties at risk.

It also mandates the development of data retention policies and the implementation of reporting and controls of other, non-state agency use of facial recognition tech owned by state entities. State agencies are also required to deliver the equivalent of Privacy Impact Assessments for any tech deployed.

A description of any potential impacts of the facial recognition service on civil rights and liberties, including potential impacts to privacy and potential disparate impacts on marginalized communities, and the specific steps the agency will take to mitigate the potential impacts and prevent unauthorized use of the facial recognition service.

While an outright ban (or at least a moratorium) would have been preferable, this is a positive development. It shows legislators recognize the multiple issues this tech poses and its tendency to exacerbate existing inequality problems by being seemingly incapable of accurately identifying anything other than white males.

If this bill becomes law, Washington will join a handful of cities (and one state!) around the country taking measures to protect residents from unproven tech that is swiftly becoming ubiquitous. Facial recognition tech is no longer the latest "rule of law" darling. It's increasingly being viewed as a threat to civil liberties -- not just by privacy advocates/activists, but by the people who actually can prevent their constituents from the steady creep of government surveillance.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: 4th amendment, facial recognition, law enforcement, warrants, washington

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 6:36am


    "$640 trillion in derivatives might be a clue that the math is off!"

    There are no "clues" the math is off. Factual reality is enough. There is, much thanks to shadow banking and bank overlending, way more money (counting debts and bonds) in circulation than actually exists in the US. This is why the crash of 2008, when the banks put a dead stop on lending, major corporations had to beg for bailouts of face bankruptcy - liquid capital no longer exists, in reality.

    "Another clue that the math might be off is that the QE under Obama which led to zero interest rates caused a pension crisis..."

    No, the "pension crisis" - and indeed, the entire fiscal collapse shit-show can most clearly be derived from Bill Clinton opening the shadow banking floodgates - but at best that would just be shooting the messenger because the real fault lies with the general US unwillingness to force banks to actually possess the money they lend out.

    "In 2002, Rockefeller suggested that the U.S. "prepare" for a pandemic..."

    Everyone did. Doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, etc. The western world has been statistically due for a whopper of a pandemic for years. And it didn't take Rockefeller to sound the alert which no one listened to...except when the same advice came from a sufficiently wealthy person, of course.

    "Israeli intelligence "warned" that there will likely be interference and terrorist acts that will interfere with the 2020 election..."

    Every intelligence agency in the world has suggested that there would be terrorist activity around US elections. They do this every time. Some day that broken clock will be right and some McVey-wannabe will blow himself up.

    "The CDC shut down the Fort Detrick Bio-weapons lab in March of 2019 for failure to prevent repeated pathogen leaks. In October of 2019, the U.S. military participated in the Wuhan Military Games. The military has had a repeated history of using illegal and unethical medical practices on the military..."

    Even if true that has no bearing on SARS-CoV-2 which isn't a manufactured virus, and bioweapons in general are the weapons of madmen and fanatics because they are not controllable. As in "This shit could kill the operator and order-giver as easily as the presumed target".

    "Logic would place this as ground zero for the corona viruses that have been occuring in this country and throughout the world"

    Except it's not. You'd think a few thousand epidemiologists from a hundred different countries would have seen the dispersal vector easily enough if that was the case. It's not.

    "It was discovered in 2017 that the species has had coronavirus A."

    Yes, and? Animals regularly carry virii and microorganisms which, were they capable of leaping the species barrier, would be devastating. This actually happening is very rare. When it DOES happen we get stuff like Ebola and SARS. Since Coronavirus A is NOT SARS-CoV-2 it's completely irrelevant. What you are saying makes as little sense as claiming that someone is running a cold fusion reactor because you've seen them drinking water.

    "The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from surveilling Americans as well as engaging in law enforcement on Americans."

    Which is why there's the FBI, DEA, ATF, NSA, TIA, etc, etc to do all the surveillance so the military can partake of the results.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.