Technology is constantly evolving, and to protect our constitutional rights, our leaders need to update federal laws and policies right alongside it.
Law enforcement agencies around the country are using face recognition technology to identify suspects. This happens more often than you may think. In 2015, Baltimore police used face recognition technology on demonstrators who were protesting police brutality following the killing of Freddie Gray in police custody. Police used the technology to scan the crowd, and they detained and arrested those the software identified as having outstanding warrants. In 2020, local police in Florida , used face recognition tech to identify and catalog civil rights protesters. Fort Lauderdale police ran face recognition searches to identify protest organizers at a Juneteenth event to promote defunding the police; Boca Raton police ran face recognition scans targeting Black Lives Matter protesters; and the Broward sheriff’s office ran face recognition searches for “intelligence” collection, rather than to investigate any criminal offense.
While the First Amendment should protect our right to peaceful assembly, there are no federal laws yet in place regulating the use of this technology.
Unregulated use of face recognition technology can lead to improper arrests and even jail time. And in some cases, the software is more likely to misidentify women and people of color. Congress needs to implement more safeguards around the ways law enforcement can use this unproven technology.
Congress must act now, before this surveillance technology becomes even more powerful and even more entrenched in policing. The only way we can stop the dangers posed by face recognition technology is with strong and comprehensive policy solutions.