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US government assailed for its facial recognition policies

US government assailed for its facial recognition policies

A trio of outsiders view the U.S. government’s justice and security departments, including members of its own civil rights agency, with increasing distrust when it comes to biometric surveillance use.

The critics say the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are hiding use cases behind overly broad disclosure requirements.

At the same time, law enforcement agencies allegedly are allowed too much latitude when deciding when biometric surveillance is used and who outside an agency can see collected data.

A third accusation states that inherently imperfect biometric surveillance algorithms are being used by the Justice and Homeland Security departments with too little regard for vulnerable communities when writing rules and recommendations for automated surveillance.

And last, the Justice Department skipped an invitation by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to testify last week about their use of facial recognition.

The government IT news publication FedScoop reported at the end of last month on the first critique. An advisory group in the non-government AI community voted together to change CIO Council guidelines on what can be excluded from mandatory use-case inventories.

The body in question is the National AI Advisory Committee’s Law Enforcement Subcommittee.

Face- and license-plate scanning systems, according to FedScoop, are not inventoried by the Justice Department. If the department doesn’t see those systems as AI, the question is what else is not being inventoried.

The Law Enforcement Subcommittee’s position is that some very sensitive tools can and sometimes should be redacted from public view to protect certain investigations.

But its members told the CIO Council to change its guidelines because decidedly non-sensitive tools are being hidden, which erodes public trust.

The subcommittee also told the council that law enforcement agencies must create use policies that rein in facial recognition and minimize who can access its data, according to FedScoop.

Then, last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center commented on section 13e of President Biden’s 2022 executive order calling for ways to attain accountable policing and enhance public trust criminal justice practices. The section addresses the need to put vulnerable communities in the center of their consideration when using biometric surveillance.

The document argues a familiar point – that biometrics aren’t infallible and even just one person falsely detained based on algorithms is too many. A primary shortcoming of the software is that people other than white cis males are more likely to be falsely identified, EPIC says.

And also last week, a member of the nation’s Civil Rights Commission dressed down the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for not attending a briefing on the use of facial recognition.

Mondaire Jones said he found their absence “offensive,” according to a second FedScoop story. Jones is a Democrat, but he reportedly was joined by Commissioner J. Christian Adams, a Republican, in saying a subpoena should be issued for information from the agencies.

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