A couple big wins for skeptics of government use of facial recognition
In a surprise to some, elected officials in Colorado and New Orleans are telling proponents of face biometrics that personal privacy can outbalance the need by law enforcement and other government agencies to use facial recognition systems.
In Colorado, the governor has signed into law new rules restricting the use of facial recognition by agencies and state institutions of higher learning. Meanwhile, the New Orleans City Council shut down a request from the municipality’s superintendent of police to give officers access to facial recognition software.
The Colorado law, SB 113, forces leaders of the organizations described to get permission to “develop, procure, use or continue to sue facial recognition service,” according to the National Law Review.
Using its “reporting authority,” presumably to the state legislature, the agency or school must report the name of the vendor and the capacities of the system that would be used. The type of data to be collected, how it will be collected and processed as well as the purpose and benefits of the data collection must be revealed.
That is not the end of the requirements. It appears that the legislature surveyed how the many government bodies around the world have either undercut or created trust in facial recognition systems based on how they addressed transparency.
The New Orleans decision is more dramatic because city Mayor LaToya Cantrell had joined Supt. Shaun Ferguson in endorsing fewer restrictions on use of the AI software, according to regional news publisher nola.com. It is more so still because violent crime, which like all major U.S. cities New Orleans suffers, has often pushed electorates to get-tough campaigns.
In the final days of 2020, the city council banned some aspects of a surveillance system already live and banned outright facial recognition and predictive policing.
Although it had for years denied using facial recognition, the police department was forced to admit that it had been given access to the software by state and federal agencies that used it. That admission came weeks before the council’s ban.
Some opponents of facial recognition us by agencies were concerned in the last year when some governments started repealing earlier bans.