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States ponder facial recognition regulation, survey shows heightened privacy concerns in China

States ponder facial recognition regulation, survey shows heightened privacy concerns in China

More regulations for facial recognition may be coming, with NJ considering a wide-ranging proposal, and a new Amnesty International campaign against the technology. A U.S. Congressman says the country needs federal privacy regulation, while in China the vast majority of consumers want restrictions on face biometrics in commercial areas.

Moratorium proposed in New Jersey

Legislation proposing a moratorium on biometrics collection by state agencies in New Jersey, and restrictions on private sector use of the technology, has been approved by the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology committee.

The proposal includes an open-ended moratorium on the collection of biometric data by public agencies in the state, and a requirement for private entities to formulate written, publicly-available policy for the retention and destruction of biometric data. The bill also gives the NJ Attorney General a year to recommend legislation on appropriate uses of biometrics.

Critically, the bill also contains a right of private action for individuals if their biometric data is handled in a non-compliant way by a business or government agency.

The bill is co-sponsored by five Democrats, who said in a statement supporting it that there can be value in remote biometrics, but claimed real-time tracking has been used in places like Detroit, and suggested more guidance to curb inappropriate uses of the technology is needed.

“A sustained use of remote biometrics by any entity has the potential for misapplication and loss of privacy for individuals and whole communities,” the Assembly members said in the statement. “Although biometric technology helps us every day in many different fields including law enforcement, we still have to remain vigilant and ensure this data is only being used for good.”

Congressman supports federal privacy regulation

At the federal level, Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) has indicated support for regulation to place privacy protections, and willingness to work with the new administration to get it done, Politico reports.

At a Politico live event, Carter said privacy legislation could address concerns around ethics and AI and build public confidence in AI systems. Carter sits on the House Energy and Commerce technology committee.

He acknowledged that building support for increased regulation among the GOP caucus could be difficult, but there is room for a limited government role on the issue.

“The benefits of AI are enormous. There are risks, there’s no question about it. And we’ve got to understand and know how we’re going to manage those risks,” Carter said.

Amnesty urges NY to ‘Ban the Scan’

Amnesty International has launched a campaign it calls ‘Ban the Scan’ to urge legislators to ban facial recognition technology, on grounds that it “amplifies racist policing.”

The advocacy group says facial recognition exacerbates system racism due to the possibility of disproportionate impact on people of color. The campaign against its use will initially focus on New York City, before expanding its focus to other areas of the world later in the year.

The announcement notes that facial recognition algorithms can be developed through scraped social media images, avoiding mention that most commercial systems are not developed in this way.

An incident is recounted in which the New York Police Department is accused of misinforming a suspect of his rights, attempting to interrogate him without counsel present. The suspect had been identified by a facial recognition search, and is accused of assaulting a police officer by yelling into a megaphone during a protest.

Chinese consumers want less facial recognition

A survey of Chinese consumers by Beijing News shows that nearly 90 percent of people in the country do not want facial recognition to be used in commercial areas, which the South China Morning Post writes could post a major problem in a country where biometrics are used for everything from garbage collection to toilet paper distribution.

More than two-thirds of survey respondents said facial recognition should not be used for residential access control, and its use in venues like hospitals, schools and offices was between 43 and 52 percent. The survey also shows that more than half of Chinese people feel that they have been forced to use facial recognition, and that abuse of the technology is common.

Meanwhile the revelation that top Chinese face biometrics companies had developed technology for identifying ethnic minorities has bolstered arguments in favor of U.S. restrictions on Chinese companies, and the Epoch Times reports that patents of such technology are sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

China is the top country in the world for risky biometric data collection, according to a new report from Comparitech, but a pushback has been growing, in the form of a lawsuit won by a law professor last year and a new data privacy law, the PIPL.

Beijing News Think Tank also published a report on 78 popular apps, showing that nearly half of those supporting facial recognition features do not require explicit user consent.

UK group formulates recommendations

City University of London Law School Professor Jennifer Temkin CBE has contributed guidance to the UK Government’s Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group (BFEG), according to an article on the school’s website.

Temkin has 40 years of experience as a legal scholar specializing in law and policy around sexual assault and violence. She offered advice to the BFEG on the use of live (or ‘real-time’) facial recognition (LFR) in privately-owned spaces.

The ethical concerns of the BFEG include LFR data sharing and combining behavioral biometrics with the technology, as well as discrimination and demographic performance differences and watchlist construction. The group has identified issues to be addressed, in the absence of adequate regulation, before public-private collaborations involving live facial recognition are implemented.

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