Fingers crossed for balanced federal facial recognition regulation under Biden

Fingers crossed for balanced federal facial recognition regulation under Biden

A new occupant in the White House has some in the privacy community hopeful that meaningful federal and state controls on facial recognition will pass.

That is hopeful and not optimistic, although corporate security publication CSO has analyzed the situation and recommends chief information security officers prepare for some new government mandates.

An article in the publication Government Technology reports on how privacy and civil rights advocates are getting ready to lobby Biden on the matter — to stay ahead of any possible development.

If nothing else, the Joe Biden administration could regulate, piecemeal, through the executive branch’s many departments and agencies.

The reality is that while the Democratic-led House of Representatives has pushed biometric data protection measures, the Republican-dominated Senate has not been a willing partner in proposing solutions.

Dozens of bills have been introduced in the last year, but few if any have a real chance at passage.

The Government Technology article notes that it was only recently that those inside the D.C. beltway have considered the price that Americans are paying in lost privacy thanks to emotion-fueled 9/11 laws and rules.

And, at deadline, Republican legislators in 17 states had said they support a Texas bid to dismiss the popular votes in four states in order to overturn the national election. It is beside the point that the effort, like every other similar effort, is almost certainly doomed.

The unprecedented battle to prevent Biden from assuming the presidency he won means that his term in office will be frustrated by more partisan animus than was shown to President Barak Obama (whose vice present was Biden). At this moment, few vocal opponents to facial recognition are conservatives, which takes new regulation off the table for a while.

Then there is the COVID-19 factor. Any pro-privacy sentiment from voters will be swamped by the coming tempests over tighter coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations.

Market leading companies might be able get the attention of lawmakers, if not voters.

No less than IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have made high-profile statements in favor of relevant government action, if for no other reason than to give biometrics vendors some solid footing.

Indeed, no vendor of any size anywhere wants to see unclear or less-than-uniform regulation in the United States.

Bans and moratoriums on the technology cluster loosely on the West Coast with some legislative actions on the East Coast. An article published by the University of Florida points out the historical fact that innovation and investment typically run from uncertainty.

There is nothing more uncertain than facing 50 states and the District of Columbia when selling technology that already comes to the game saddled with controversy.

Just considering California alone is a bracing exercise. The CSO article quotes an intellectual property attorney counting the rising number of bills introduced: zero during the state’s 2015-2016 legislative session, five in 2017-2018 and 13 in 2019-2020.

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