Amnesty pushes for ban on facial recognition use for mass surveillance by police, government

Amnesty pushes for ban on facial recognition use for mass surveillance by police, government

Amnesty International is supporting the Algorithmic Justice League, the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in their fight against biometric facial recognition technology use for mass surveillance by law enforcement and government organizations, the human rights organization announced. Amnesty is pushing for a “a ban on the use, development, production, sale and export of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance purposes.”

The organization fears facial recognition technology could worsen police violations of human rights and prevent peaceful protests due to racial profiling and discrimination. Amnesty further accuses law enforcement of “violating people’s human rights daily out on the streets.” It is concerned about the increasing use of facial recognition technology in policing and to identify protesters in the U.S., which it says could lead to human rights violations as police target Black communities.

Amnesty points out that NIST’s study on demographic disparities in facial recognition “measured higher false positives rates in women, African Americans, and particularly in African American women,” while researchers at Georgetown University warn that bias may also be generated by the high number of black faces on U.S. police watchlists.

NIST Biometric Standards and Testing Lead Patrick Grother told Biometric Update in an interview that the debate about algorithmic bias was missing a lot of specificity prior to its report, and the report showed wide divergence between algorithms in terms of consistency of performance for different demographics.

Accuracy rate for marginalized or disadvantaged groups is a concern pointed out by Amnesty, in the context of identification and mass surveillance. Facial recognition technology enables random surveillance, collection, storage and processing of biometric data “without individualized reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing,” interfering with the right to privacy and peaceful assembly. States are responsible for ensuring people’s right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and anonymity, Amnesty argues.

In 2019, the use of facial recognition in law enforcement was banned in San Francisco and Oakland in California, and Somerville and Brookline in Massachusetts. Police and ICE facial biometrics system in San Diego was shut down in January to comply with new state law.

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