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Proposal would ban warrantless facial biometrics on U.S. police body cameras, use on protestors questioned

Proposal would ban warrantless facial biometrics on U.S. police body cameras, use on protestors questioned

Among the changes proposed in The Justice in Policing Act recently unveiled by House Democrats in the U.S. is a ban on the use of biometric facial recognition in police body cameras without a warrant. Police in uniform at all levels would be required to wear body cameras.

Section 372 of the proposed legislation requires that a judicial review find probably cause of relevance to an ongoing criminal investigation. It also outlines requirements for activating and turning off the cameras, the automatic retention of footage for six months, and other conditions. Section 374 extends the prohibition on facial recognition with police cameras to dashboard cameras, which are also mandated in the Act.

The legislation is opposed by many Republicans, and is not expected to pass through Congress.

The Act is intended to reform police forces with increased accountability, data-based transparency, training and policies, and justice for lynching victims.

Bloomberg reports, meanwhile, that the CEO of the top police body-camera supplier in the U.S. has learned, reportedly to his surprise, that negative experiences with the police are too common for some people.

Axon CEO Rick Smith believes that technology can help reduce institutional racism within police departments,

The hope is not universally held, however.

“The hope that pervasive cameras by themselves would counterbalance the systemic racism that leads to the over-policing of communities of color and the disproportionate use of force against black men was simply a techno-utopian fantasy,” wrote MIT Center for Civic Media Director Ethan Zuckerman, Zuckerman explains that he changed his mind from the belief that body cameras would help due to the continuation of the same racially-skewed trend in violence even as body cameras and smartphone videos of misconduct have proliferated.

Axon ethics board head and New York University Policing Project Director Barry Friedman says the technology can only be helpful if backed by sound policies.

Protest surveillance questioned

A letter signed by 35 congressional Democrats calls for federal agencies to cease surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors, and claims they have used facial recognition in doing so, according to CNet.

The letter was sent to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Guard Bureau, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Several Democrats sitting on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and its various subcommittees have written a separate letter to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf requesting information on the use of a drone to perform surveillance of protestors in Minneapolis, including whether facial recognition is used by any of the agencies with access to the footage.

The five co-signatories ask in the letter what facial recognition technology was used by DHS, local police, or other recipients with the footage, who requested any facial recognition searches and for what purpose, whether any algorithm used was evaluated by NIST, and the source and nature of any data used with the biometric system.

The lawmakers also accuse CBP of grossly exceeding its jurisdiction by flying the drone nowhere near any border crossing. Answers are requested by June 11, along with a hearing on June 15.

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