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U.S. House committee considers hearings on facial recognition


The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee is weighing whether to hold hearings on facial recognition, BuzzFeed News reports.

Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings said the committee will consider investigating the technology, but is yet to finalize its agenda. California Rep. Jimmy Gonzalez said facial recognition is the perfect issue for the committee to handle.

“We have a long list of issues, but this one is at the intersection of privacy, civil liberties, oversight, and the scope of this committee,” Gonzalez told BuzzFeed News. The publication also reached three other members of the committee, who expressed interest in the subject.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez is one of those members BuzzFeed News communicated with, and he said he has spoken to a fifth committee member who is interested in holding a hearing on facial recognition. Gomez was one of 28 members of congress falsely identified by Amazon Rekognition as matching a criminal mugshot in testing by the ACLU, but Amazon dismissed the test, as it did not use the recommended confidence setting. Gomez is also one of seven House Democrats who wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos requesting additional information about facial biometrics, saying at the time that previous communications from the company amounted to a “paste job.”

Rep. Ro Khanna told BuzzFeed news that he is concerned with research indicating implicit racial and gender bias in facial recognition technology.

“It’s a whole privacy issue, and surveillance issue, that is much different now that we’ve got this new technology. So it would be of concern to me, but it hadn’t been something I’d requested us to look into,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, who wondered how it would fit in with other priorities.

BuzzFeed News notes that the now Democrat-controlled committee is likely to prioritize investigations of and checks on the Trump administration over other issues in the short term.

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