IBIA combats rhetoric in comments on proposed Massachusetts facial recognition ban

IBIA combats rhetoric in comments on proposed Massachusetts facial recognition ban

The root concern with facial recognition among privacy advocates and the general public is with surveillance, rather than the technology itself, according to comments provided to Massachusetts congressional representatives by the International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) in opposition to the state’s proposed moratorium on facial recognition and other remote biometric systems.

The IBIA urges lawmakers to consider the allowable conditions for surveillance, and for the use or sharing of identity data collected by the department of motor vehicles (DMV), rather than implementing an outright ban on facial recognition.

NetChoice is also conducting a campaign to urge legislators to reject the moratorium, and its survey data suggesting support for law enforcement use of facial recognition and other new technologies among a large majority of Massachusetts residents is cited in the IBIA’s comments.

The scope of the bill not only would prevent live facial recognition from being used on public surveillance cameras, but also facial biometrics for forensic analysis, and possibly even the use of smartphones and other electronic devices, the IBIA argues. The Association takes issue with claims in the bill’s preamble, which attempt to justify it with allegations that the technology is inaccurate for women, young people, and people with dark skin, that its use is analogous to forcing all people to display photo ID at all times, and that its benefits are few and speculative.

“It appears the Preamble was not drafted with input from experts from industry, user communities, the Federal Government, NIST, or international standards bodies,” writes IBIA Executive Director Tovah LaDier. “These stakeholders can provide valuable insights about the technology, how it is actually used, and the privacy-enhancing potential of biometrics. Their input should be considered essential in crafting sensible policy that avoids influence from false or inflammatory rhetoric designed to stoke irrational fear of a misunderstood technology.”

LaDier told Biometric Update that “this Massachusetts bill is the most far-reaching bill” she is aware of being proposed in any U.S. jurisdiction.

The IBIA concludes by offering industry input and encouraging State Congress to seek expert input, and states that the benefits of facial recognition and protection of privacy and civil liberties are not mutually exclusive.

U.S. Congressional Representative for Silicon Valley Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) recently acknowledged that Congress may not “have sufficient expertise” to craft effective legislation at this time.

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