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Maryland bill on police use of facial recognition is ‘strongest law in the nation’

Maryland bill on police use of facial recognition is ‘strongest law in the nation’
 

Maryland has passed one of the more stringent laws governing the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement in the U.S.

A news release from the Security Industry Association (SIA) says that the Maryland General Assembly unanimously passed House Bill 338/Senate Bill 182 to regulate the use of biometric facial recognition by law enforcement with a uniform statewide policy. The vote now sends the bill to the Governor for signing into law.

The SIA says the regulation will impose “extensive requirements” applicable to any agency using facial recognition, which are broadly in line with SIA’s Principles for the Responsible and Effective Use of Facial Recognition. SIA Senior Director of Government Relations Jake Parker says the bill “provides maximum transparency, accountability and safeguards to address public concerns, without placing undue limits on investigative tools used every day by our law enforcement professionals to solve crimes and keep Marylanders safe.”

Law enforcement officials in Maryland have been using biometric photo-matching software as a “post-incident investigative tool” for more than a decade. The SIA points to documented successes in generating leads by using face matching against biometric databases, particularly in cases involving child sexual exploitation or human trafficking. The rules and regulations governing facial recognition, however, have been shattershot, subject to the policies of individual agencies.

In addition to statewide standardization, the new law makes it illegal for police to make arrests or a positive ID based solely on facial recognition matching results. It puts restrictions on potential match results being used as evidence in court. It requires regular audits and reporting to ensure compliance and transparency. And it enacts prohibitions against using facial recognition to identify individuals engaged in activities protected by the constitution, or to engage in discriminatory practices based on race, skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin or other protected categories.

“This legislation will reassure Marylanders that our law enforcement agencies are leveraging facial recognition software in a lawful, effective, accurate and nondiscriminatory manner that benefits our residents and communities,” says Darren Popkin, executive director of the Maryland Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. Stakeholders came from across law enforcement, legal, industry and civil rights organizations. The SIA testified in support of the bills in February.

The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement – and its regulation – has been a priority issue for politicians and civil rights groups globally, from the UK to Australia. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to go public in the coming weeks with a full version of its interim policy on the use of facial recognition technology.

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