U.S. advocacy group launches campaign for national ban on government facial recognition use

Fight for the Future has launched a national campaign to call for a ban on the use of biometric facial recognition by the U.S. government, urging individuals to contact members of Congress and other representatives to demand new legislation.

A website at BanFacialRecognition.com provides a form for contacting legislators, and argues that regulation is not enough to protect against a technology it says “poses a threat to human society and basic liberty that far outweighs any potential benefits.”

The sample text for interaction with lawmakers calls the technology “biased” and “invasive,” and says it violates basic rights. Other claims on the site include identification of the wrong person up to 98 percent of the time, citing reports from last year that only 2 of 104 alerts to London’s Metropolitan Police were confirmed as true positive matches, and that law enforcement officers frequently use the technology without a warrant. The site also argues that lower recognition rates for people of color, women, and children risk increasing discrimination, that biometric information in government databases is a target for hackers, and that police in the U.S. have been found to “routinely abuse confidential databases to spy on exes, business partners, neighbors, and journalists.”

Fight for the Future Deputy Director Evan Greer told the Seattle Times that calls by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon to regulate facial recognition are an “industry trap.”

“If Congress doesn’t act to press pause and ban it there’s going to be greater ubiquity,” he says.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations agrees that the technology increases risk for marginalized groups.

“ICE’s use of driver’s license databases — without the knowledge or consent of the license holders — is a dangerous abuse of government power,” CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. “Facial recognition technology is riddled with racial and gender bias and it should not be used by any government agency to target marginalized communities.”

The advocacy website will soon launch a digital map showing jurisdictions considering regulations or bans affecting facial recognition technology.

Fight for the Future has also previously launched a website to encourage travelers to avoid facial recognition technology in airports.

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