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US Civil Rights Commission kicks off investigation on facial recognition

US Civil Rights Commission kicks off investigation on facial recognition

Facial recognition and its use by U.S. federal agencies is becoming a new target of investigation for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Its main task will be to examine how agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are using the technology.

The Commission’s first step in this direction is a briefing on the civil rights implications of facial recognition which will invite government officials, researchers, legal experts and software developers. The briefing is scheduled for March 8th, 2024.

While the U.S. is lagging behind economies such as the European Union, which is inching closer to setting up the world’s first artificial intelligence legislation, facial recognition and other AI applications are continuing to be a hot topic in the country.

AI researcher and founder of the nonprofit Algorithmic Justice League Joy Buolamwini told Business Insider in a recent interview that the pushback against these technologies has had some success. This includes civil rights groups’ calls to tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft not to sell facial recognition to law enforcement agencies.

“When we’re talking about the impact of AI and society, there are, of course, civil rights and human rights that remain the center,” says Buolamwini. “There are also concerns about biometric rights. This is what we’re seeing with the AI voice hoax, with facial recognition in airports. And then there are the creative-rights aspects as well.”

A January report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also called for more action in regulating facial recognition. The report highlights two major concerns, including harms from problematic use or misuse of such systems and the harms created by the limitations of the technology itself, such as bias.

The report also called on the White House to make NIST and other agencies more proactive when it comes to facial recognition development and use.

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