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More tentative regulation of facial recognition in the US

More tentative regulation of facial recognition in the US

Colorado is the latest government in the United States testing the idea of restricting use of facial recognition tools by police and schools.

State legislators voted to create a body to investigate how biometric systems are used in Colorado. Local police departments can request access to the Motor Vehicles Department’s face biometrics application, according to The Denver Post.

The bill is not all fig-leaf research.

It would require officers to get a warrant or court order before using any facial recognition tool, and they could not use it for ongoing surveillance. With hours remaining in the current legislative session, Governor Jared Polis has yet to sign the legislation into law, according to news outlet Colorado Public Radio.

A similar dynamic is emerging from the White House.

President Joe Biden is expected today to sign an executive order billed as making federal police agencies more effective and accountable. A minor note in the order sets up a body to study concerns about how facial recognition and other algorithms are used by federal police.

Both federal and state moves are stalling tactics, at least for police use.

If there was a clear majority of voters (and/or sufficient industry campaign contributions) favoring a position, there would have been no need for a vote on a study – this one due to be completed next year. Instead, a definitive bill calling for action of one sort or another would now be resting on the governor’s desk.

But already-diffuse state and local concern 18 months ago about police officers reportedly using facial recognition like they use office copiers continues to weaken.

Assuming the proposed Colorado study group next year were to recommend facial recognition restrictions, a bill were crafted and the governor were to sign it, the law could have the permanence of price signs at gas stations.

The trend is that harder-on-crime-than-thou state politicians circle back within a year to erase the law.

The story is a little clearer for face biometrics used in primary and secondary schools. Parents nationally tend to be less enthusiastic about paying their taxes to buy automated biometric camera systems to monitor their child.

Colorado legislators imbedded in their bill a moratorium on public and charter schools from enacting new contracts through 2024.

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