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Baltimore City Council proposes overarching ban on facial recognition, SIA calls for sanity

Business, consumer biometrics applications could be made illegal

biometric facial recognition

In a series of local rules proposed and passed by local government in the U.S. to limit the use of facial recognition, one being considered by Baltimore City Council stands out for its unreasonable fanaticism, according to an announcement from the Security Industry Association.

Baltimore’s proposed ordinance would be the second in the U.S. to restrict the use of face biometrics by businesses, the SIA says, and would go beyond that to the extreme of making consumer applications illegal. Ordinance 21-0001 was advanced by Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety & Government Operations Committee this week.

In a letter co-signed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the Consumer Technology Association and the XR Association, the SIA argues that negative impacts on people from the facial recognition ban could include prohibitions against applications that increase or customize accessibility for disabled persons, technologies used by people with blindness, memory loss or prosopagnosia (face blindness), emergency systems, and COVID-19 mitigation applications. Ticketless venue access, online identification systems for ecommerce or gig economy workers, and even some baby monitors could become illegal, under the proposed ordinance.

The SIA points out that even the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has prominently advocated for restrictions on face biometrics, has come out in opposition to outright bans on private sector use of the technology.

“Baltimore leaders should seize the opportunity to support a balanced, common sense policy for the use of facial recognition that safeguards access to innovative services for city residents and serves as a model policy for other local jurisdictions. Unfortunately, an outright ban on facial recognition continues a distressing pattern in which the clear value of this technology is ignored. In such cases, it is local businesses and residents who stand to lose the most,” comments SIA CEO Don Erickson. “SIA remains a willing participant in any genuine discussion that could lead to more rational policymaking.”

Rather than an aggressive ban, SIA urges Baltimore City Council to consider the guidance provided by its Principles for the Responsible and Effective Use of Facial Recognition Technology.

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