Springfield, Massachusetts and Virginia delay decisions on new biometrics laws

Springfield, Massachusetts and Virginia delay decisions on new biometrics laws

The Virginia Privacy Act, a new law for employers using biometrics, and several other proposed bills related to privacy are being sent to a legislative commission for further study by the state’s House of Delegates following the current session, JD Supra reports, delaying the passage of any of them until at least 2021.

The proposed legislation on biometric data, destruction of records containing personal information, protections for minors online, and a Privacy Act, which is considered a less onerous version of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), is being referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) for evaluation by its panel of 13 lawmakers.

The proposed biometric data law, HB 1215, would establish rules for data storage, protection, and destruction, sets a $25,000 maximum civil penalty for violating those rules, and allows a private right of action against employers.

The committee will comprehensively consider the legal privacy landscape in the state. According to the report, JCOTS typically considers the current state of law on a given topic, as presented by staff, and sometimes seeks presentations from the private sector. Following the examination, JCOTS may recommend specific legislation, support legislation in a particular are without specifying a legislative proposal, or determine that the current laws are sufficient to meet the challenge considered.

Seven different bills will be considered by the committee.

Springfield City Council has pushed back the final vote on proposed limitations to the local use of facial biometrics, with councilors arguing for exemptions for missing persons cases and that the five-year proposed time frame is too long, public radio outlet WAMC reports.

Officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts debated the proposed moratorium on local authorities using the technology for 3 hours earlier this week, following months of discussion. In an 8-5 vote, councillors decided to delay a decision until a special meeting of the full council, which City Council President Justin Hurst said he plans to schedule.

Ordinance co-sponsor Councilor Orlando Ramos objected to the delay, but Councilor Tim Allen said the body was not ready to decide, and no consensus had been reached.

Mayor Domenic Sarno also declared his intention to veto any moratorium on facial recognition technology in a statement before the council meeting began, citing concern for public safety. Local police do not currently use facial recognition, Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood says, but she opposes the ban on grounds the technology could help the department in the future. Clapprood also says council will be informed ahead of time if Springfield Police consider implementing facial recognition in the future.

Northampton and three other municipalities in Massachusetts have moratoriums in place on biometric facial recognition.

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