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Lawmakers try again for US bill that opens forensic black boxes

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement
Lawmakers try again for US bill that opens forensic black boxes

A pair of U.S. politicians have introduced a bill to open black-box forensic algorithms used in criminal trials.

The AI software is a common participant in criminal cases nationwide. One of the most common roles is to judge if a suspect in jail can be released on bond prior to a trial. But facial recognition code is increasingly common on the scene of crimes, too.

More common, however, is the fact that criminal justice algorithms are shrouded from examination even though they are significant players in a criminal justice process that already is rife with inequalities.

U.S. Representatives Mark Takano of California and Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, both Democrats, say defendants should have the right to challenge software used in the process of convicting them.

Software developers have claimed their algorithms are trade secrets, which makes them immune to examination even though they have at best a shaky reputation.

The representatives say in their re-introduced bill that immunity should be removed, and defense teams should get access to source code. They’re being denied the Constitutional right to see evidence being used against them the opportunity to question how an algorithm arrived at a decision.

The second aim of their legislation is to add forensic standards to the list of duties assigned to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

This is the third attempt at that bill. Previous legislation was introduced in 2019 and 2021. Neither made it to a committee. That’s likely to be the fate this time, too, as a particularly unaccommodating class of Republicans control the House of Representatives.

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