Face biometrics panel in US realizes it has bitten off quite a lot to chew
A commission in Massachusetts debating the use of face biometrics by police has found that the topic is more freighted and complex than anticipated.
Created in December 2020 as part of a policing reform law, the panel is charged with recommending facial recognition use by law enforcement, according to news publisher MassLive Media.
An earlier version of the reform bill was rejected by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker because he felt it was overly restrictive on facial recognition use. Regulations were loosened and the amended bill became law.
But the commission missed its December 31 deadline for sending recommendations to the governor. And this week, the group’s co-chairs are telling the other 19 commissioners not to discuss the matter until a report is published.
Sources who spoke with MassLive said the commission has been diligent since its first meeting in April, but the topic is complicated, and it lends itself to deep and lengthy conversations.
And about those conversations. Despite the meetings being shown publicly and minutes being published, the commission’s leaders do not want commissioners sharing information until a final report has been completed, according to reporting by WWLP-TV news.
There is talk about wanting to avoid boxing commissioners into positions or misconstruing accounts about their meetings.
It might be more direct to say that the topic engenders strong feelings among the public, particularly people concerned about protecting citizens’ privacy and about handing new biometric investigative powers to government.
Bans and moratoriums limiting government use of face biometrics have been proposed in many U.S. jurisdictions and have won approval in some cases.