U.S. House Rep calls on DoJ to investigate law enforcement use of facial recognition

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A member of the U.S. House of Representatives has requested the Department of Justice hold an inquiry into the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, and whether it violates civil rights safeguards, The Hill reports.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) sent a letter to acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, suggesting that while the technology is potentially useful, also has the potential to “exacerbate and entrench” racial divisions in policing practice due to differing performance in matching people from different demographics.

He warned that “if not appropriately implemented, use of the technology may threaten the life and liberty of Americans with crushing force.”

“Additionally, the potential to monitor and enroll identified Americans into databases without their knowledge poses critical legal concerns — particularly if deployed to monitor peaceful protesters,” he stated.

Cleaver and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wrote Amazon in May to request information about its Rekognition software, including what law enforcement agencies are using it, following a call by privacy groups to the company to stop marketing the technology to law enforcement customers. The Congressional Black Caucus also wrote to the company expressing concerns about its responsible use around the same time.

“Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Hill in May. “Imagine if customers couldn’t buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?”

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