Rep. Jayapal, lawmakers push to ban use of facial recognition technology by federal, state agencies

Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal and other national lawmakers are pushing to ban the government from using facial recognition and biometric technologies, saying they pose issues of privacy and civil liberties.

The "Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act" aimed to prevent the government from using such technology, which Rep. Jayapal says is already being put to use by local, state and federal agencies—and already misidentifying people, particularly people of color.

Research has found nearly half of U.S. adults' faces are already in a facial recognition database, and the faces of people of color are as much as 100 times more likely to be misidentified than the faces of white men.

"Facial recognition technology is not only invasive, inaccurate, and unregulated but it has also been weaponized by law enforcement against Black and Brown people across this country. That’s why I have long called on government to halt the deployment of facial recognition technology, and it’s why we need to immediately take additional steps to evaluate its effectiveness," said Jayapal. "This legislation will not only preserve civil liberties but aggressively fight back against injustice by stopping federal entities from irresponsibly using facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools."

The bill is supported by Democrat representatives and senators including Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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In all, the act would:

  • Prohibit facial technology by federal agencies, only to be lifted with an act of Congress
  • Prohibit biometric technologies—voice recognition, gate recognition and "other immutable physical characteristics"—only to be lifted with an act of Congress
  • Provide federal funding to state and local agencies to phase out usage of facial recognition and biometric technology
  • Prohibit the use of federal money for biometric surveillance
  • Prohibit the use of information collected through biometric surveillance barred by this act in legal proceedings
  • Provide private right of action for people whose biometric data is used in violation of the act
  • Allow states to enact their own laws on facial recognition and biometric technologies.