September 26, 2019

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Coalition calls for Congress to reject ban on facial recognition technology

By
Melissa Quinn
Washington Examiner

The tech community is urging Congress to steer clear of enacting a blanket ban on facial recognition technology, warning doing so could rid law enforcement of a crucial tool to keep communities safe.

In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, more than three dozen technology trade associations, companies, research organizations, and individuals said Congress should consider other alternatives to legislation outright prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology to ensure it can be used “safely, accurately, and effectively.”

“While we agree that it is important to have effective oversight and accountability of these tools to uphold and protect civil liberties, we disagree that a ban is the best option to move forward,” the coalition from the tech community wrote. “Bans would keep this important tool out of the hands of law enforcement officers, making it harder for them to do their jobs efficiently, stay safe, and protect our communities.”

The coalition, which includes the Consumer Technology Association, TechNet, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, noted that facial recognition technology has improved in recent years, and the systems “perform significantly better than humans.” The technology, they added, has been used to identify those suspected of committing crimes, locate missing children, and combat sex trafficking.

“There are many individuals from law enforcement, industry, academia, and civil society who stand ready to work with lawmakers to craft appropriate safeguards for this technology,” they said. “We encourage you to continue to work with these experts to find solutions and compromises that will allow law enforcement to adopt and test this important technology with appropriate oversight.”

The use of facial recognition technology, which is largely unregulated, has raised red flags among privacy and civil liberties groups who warn the systems have been implemented without proper safeguards. Some groups have advocated for a full ban on the use of facial recognition technology, but companies such as Microsoft and Amazon believe the government should regulate the systems.

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