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Immigrant and civil rights groups urge govt to ban own use of FRT, limit private use

US Commission on Civil Rights hears from EFF, United We Dream
Immigrant and civil rights groups urge govt to ban own use of FRT, limit private use

Rights groups continue to call on the U.S. government to limit governmental use of facial recognition technology.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) submitted comments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is currently preparing a report on the use of face recognition technology (FRT) by federal agencies and its implications.

The organization argues that the tech is not reliable enough to be used in decisions affecting constitutional and statutory rights or social benefits while facial recognition puts marginalized communities at risk and threatens privacy.

“The government should ban its own use of FRT, and strictly limit private use, to protect us from the threats posed by FRT,” the group says.

EFF was joined by the immigrant advocacy organization United We Dream and over 30 immigrant and civil rights movement partners who submitted their own comments to the commission. The alliance claims that a legal loophole has given the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies unrestrained use of facial recognition to surveil immigrants and people of color.

“Facial recognition technology subjects immigrant communities to intensified scrutiny, with its inherent algorithmic biases often incorrectly identifying individuals and subjecting them to unjust arrests, detentions, and deportations,” the group says.

The Commission on Civil Rights has been holding hearings, inviting lawmakers, academics and civil society groups to present their claims against the use of technology. Government and law enforcement agencies, vendors and institutions such as NIST have also presented counter-claims.

The Departments of Justice filed written testimony late last month arguing its interim facial recognition policy prioritizes First Amendment rights. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) submitted its written testimony last week.

According to official data from 2021, 18 of 21 surveyed federal agencies were using facial recognition. The most common use cases were law enforcement and digital access.

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