Fight for the Future


Bernie Sanders just called for a ban on law enforcement use of facial recognition. Every other 2020 candidate should do the same.

Posted 11:06 EDT on August 19, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 19, 2019
Contact: Evan Greer, (508) 368-3026, press@fightforthefuture.org

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) just became the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for a complete ban on law enforcement use of facial recognition surveillance. While other candidates, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker have previously expressed concern about face scanning and biometric surveillance, so far none have incorporated a ban on the technology into their platform. 

“The rapid spread of facial recognition surveillance is one of the most urgent threats to our basic freedom and human rights today. Every single 2020 candidate should be calling for a ban on this invasive, biased, and dangerous technology,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of non-partisan digital rights group Fight for the Future (pronouns, she/her). “Banning facial recognition is not a radical idea. It’s common sense. Allowing government agencies to build a face scanning panopticon with no oversight or accountability is reckless and puts people in danger. There’s growing bipartisan support to rein in biometric surveillance. Any 2020 candidate that wants to be taken seriously on tech and civil liberties issues needs to be calling for a ban.”

The Sanders announcement comes amid growing backlash to facial recognition surveillance that has been spreading across the country. Last month Fight for the Future launched our BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, along with  an interactive map showing where in the US facial recognition surveillance is being used, and also where there are local and state efforts to ban it. San Francisco, Somerville, MA, and Oakland, CA, recently became the first cities in the country to ban the technology. Berkeley, CA and Cambridge, MA are also considering bans, and bills to halt current use of the tech are moving in the Massachusetts and Michigan legislatures. In Congress, there is growing bipartisan agreement to address the issue, but it could easily stall under pressure from law enforcement and big tech.

Fight for the Future, which is a non-profit that does not endorse candidates for office, opposes attempts by the tech industry (including Amazon)  and law enforcement to pressure Congress to pass an industry-friendly “regulatory framework” for facial recognition that would allow this dangerous technology to spread quickly with minimal restrictions intended to assuage public opposition. But we support narrower efforts to ban or restrict specifically egregious uses of this surveillance, such as a bill introduced recently to ban the use of facial recognition in public housing. For more on our position, read our op-ed in Buzzfeed News: “Don’t regulate facial recognition. Ban it.”

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