US representative seeks face recognition bill changes
25 June 2019 16:41 GMT

US Representative Don Beyer this week offered two amendments to a House appropriations bill which would plot a new course for federal policies regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition systems.

One amendment would bar federal funds from being used to purchase facial recognition technology by state and local law enforcement, the other would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide a report to Congress on the social impacts of AI research it funds.

Beyer said:

“It is important that Congress recognize not only the exciting potential of technologies associated with artificial intelligence, but also the significant risks and responsibilities which come with them. For instance, facial recognition systems already being adopted by big city police departments and used to swear out warrants have shown significant levels of inaccuracy and bias. Artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms more generally are increasingly influencing hiring decisions, credit and loan determinations, and even criminal sentencing, even as such systems remain woefully susceptible to longstanding biases.

“There is a growing body of data that suggests the technology being deployed today is not ready for such widespread operation. We need more research and better standards of use before we entrust such important aspects of our society entirely to as-yet flawed automated processes, and my amendments would do just that – one placing a year-long moratorium on federal funding for state and local law enforcement purchase of facial recognition technology while Congress works to set parameters, and the other encouraging social science research in this space in the meantime.  

“Our commitment to due process, privacy rights, the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, and other protections guaranteed by the Constitution requires that Congress address the possible abuses of these rights which may come with new technology. My amendments would help address those civil rights issues of the future which are rapidly becoming the civil rights issues of the present.”

Detroit and Chicago are among the cities deploying large networks of cameras with real-time facial recognition surveillance capabilities. A recent report by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology documented cases in which arrests were made solely on the basis of facial recognition technology, exposing significant flaws in relying on such unproven technology and a lack of transparency regarding police use of the technology. A Brown University student was even falsely identified as the terrorist responsible for the Sri Lanka church attacks based on facial recognition technology.

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