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ACM’s U.S. Policy Committee pushes for facial recognition suspension, Boston Mayor signs ban



The Association for Computing Machinery’s U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USTPC) has requested all uses of facial recognition in the public and private sector now and in the future in situations that are or could “be prejudicial to established human and legal rights,” to be suspended immediately.

The Statement on Principles and Prerequisites for the Development, Evaluation and Use of Unbiased Facial Recognition Technologies analyzes how biometric facial recognition is used and warns that “too often” it displays biased results depending on ethnic, racial, and gender characteristics, which may jeopardize people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

“FR technology has many benign uses and a bright future,” said USTPC Chair James Hendler in a statement. “But the unfortunate fact is that it’s simply not yet reliably unbiased enough to be used when people’s lives, livelihoods–and certainly liberty–are at stake. When all is considered, it is time to take a pause until we can get this technology under proper controls.”

USTPC has also included a set of guidelines on accuracy, transparency, governance, risk management and accountability to help build future standards and regulations.

Boston mayor signs government use ban

A city ordinance blocking the use of facial recognition by local government agencies in Boston, though with a loophole, has been approved by Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston Business Journal reports.

The proposal was approved unanimously by Boston City Councilors last week.

City officials have said the technology is not used by the Boston Police Department, and proponents of the ban said face biometrics could be used by government to violate people’s privacy, and could misidentify people, particularly people of color.

The exception contained in the final version of the ordnance is that Boston police or other government bodies can use evidence generated by facial recognition relating to a particular crime, so long as the evidence was generated by request of a non-Boston official. In other words, investigations with participation from state or federal law enforcement could use the technology while working with city police.

ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Director Kade Crockford, interestingly, noted to the Business Journal that the exception “doesn’t undermine the purpose of the law.”

“It is just meant to allow ordinary police work to continue.”

A bill proposing a statewide ban on government use of facial recognition, which International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) Executive Director Tovah LaDier told Biometric Update is the most far-reaching of its kind, is reported to currently be before the Judiciary Committee.

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