OTI Endorses Facial Recognition Technology Moratorium Bill

Press Release
June 26, 2020

Yesterday, Senators Markey (D-Mass.) and Merkley (D-Ore.), and Representatives Jayapal (WA-07) and Pressley (MA-07) introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, which would halt government use of facial recognition technology and other biometric surveillance tools at the federal level, and ban federal funds from being used by state and local law enforcement to purchase the technology. New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) endorses the bill, and urges Congress to move swiftly on this crucial and overdue legislation.

Just this week, Robert Williams, a Black man from the Detroit area, shared his story of being wrongfully arrested after facial recognition technology misidentified him, piling on to the mounting evidence that the technology is biased and dangerous in the hands of law enforcement. In recent weeks, numerous technology companies have also paused their development and sales of facial recognition technology to law enforcement, acknowledging the bias issues that disproportionately affect Black and Brown people. For these reasons, as well as the likelihood of misuse and disproportionate use on Black and Brown communities, and the privacy-invasive nature of the technology on all individuals, OTI and other advocates have been long calling for a moratorium on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology.

The following quote can be attributed to Lauren Sarkesian, senior policy counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020 takes a much-needed step to halt the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and is prone to misuse. Just in the past couple weeks, three major companies that develop and sell the technology have disbanded their sales to law enforcement, in acknowledgment of the bias and civil rights issues it presents. This week’s news of Robert Williams’s wrongful arrest further demonstrates the devastating consequences that can follow when this biased technology is used by law enforcement. Congress should not delay any further in halting government use of this technology.”

Related Topics
Government Surveillance Facial Recognition