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Bill to limit police biometrics use tabled in New York state as legislators struggle with facial recognition

Bill to limit police biometrics use tabled in New York state as legislators struggle with facial recognition

A state legislator in New York has introduced a curious bill to prohibit arrests on the sole basis of “facial recognition and biometric information,” as policy-makers struggle with the deployment of technology that law enforcement officials consistently say is beneficial, but is too-frequently misused.

Bill A00768 was introduced by Democrat Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, and would apply the same criteria to fingerprint and DNA biometrics, which are recognized as deterministic and therefore generally admissible as evidence in court, as is currently applied to facial recognition. The inadmissibility of facial recognition as legal grounds for probable cause has apparently not prevented the wrongful arrest of at least three individuals in the U.S.

The BBC meanwhile reports on voices calling for police to be allowed to use facial recognition in the UK, where an appeals court ruled police trials of real-time facial recognition were being conducted unlawfully. Whether that decision means all law enforcement deployments of live facial recognition would be unlawful, or the gaps identified by the court’s decision could be filled with a more robust process, is a subject of debate.

Credas CEO Rhys David tells the BBC that face biometrics are helping his company reduce fraud in the real estate sector, and that people should feel assured that police will not share their biometric data or attempt to use it to advertise to them. Credas selected ID R&D to provide the biometrics and liveness checking for its onboarding solution in November.

“Real-time surveillance is considerably more complex than in the commercial space where it’s a fairly static, controlled environment. But we should be adopting it and encouraging it to reduce a criminal footprint,” David acknowledges, but says, “I find it really sad that the police aren’t encouraged to use technology like this to keep our country safe.”

The BBC points out that guidance from Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter to police on the use of facial recognition is not backed by a legal adherence mandate, leaving police to respond to interpret the appeals court ruling without clear legal boundaries.

“We want police to use new technologies, like live facial recognition, in a way that reduces crime while maintaining public trust,” a Home Office spokesperson told the BBC.

“We are working closely with the police to ensure national College of Policing guidance complies with the Court of Appeal’s request to clarify how live facial recognition will be used.

“The government committed in the Home Office Biometrics Strategy to review the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and it will be updated in due course.”

In New York, the new state house bill, which would also apply to handprint biometrics, iris, voice, and gait recognition, would require all state and local law enforcement agencies to craft a written policy by the beginning of 2023 barring them from “stopping, detention or search of any person” on the sole grounds of a biometric match.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly’s Governmental Relations Committee.

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