IT’S BACK: Congress Re-introduces Bill that Effectively Bans Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Posted June 15, 2021, 5:04 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2021
Contact: Caitlin Seeley George, caitlin@fightforthefuture.org

**It’s been nearly a year since the bill’s initial introduction. In that time there have been countless examples of how facial recognition surveillance is being used against marginalized communities and to restrict our rights.**

Today lawmakers in the House and Senate jointly re-introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2021, which would effectively ban law enforcement use of facial recognition in the United States. The bill is sponsored by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13). It would immediately stop Federal agencies in the US from using facial recognition technology.

Fight for the Future, the digital rights group behind BanFacialRecognition.com, a coalition of dozens of organizations calling for an outright ban on law enforcement use of facial recognition, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Caitlin Seeley George, Director of Campaigns and Operations (pronouns: she/her):

“Facial recognition technology continues to be used by law enforcement against people in ways that abuse their rights, target Black and Brown communities, and put people in danger. The urgency around passing this bill has never been greater: Congress must act now to ban facial recognition.

Local lawmakers in more than a dozen cities, counties, and states have passed legislation to protect their communities from this technology, and it’s time for a federal law that will protect everyone across the country.

Facial recognition is like nuclear or biological weapons. It poses such a threat to the future of human society that any potential benefits are outweighed by the inevitable harms. The number of cases where the technology has been used to identify people doing wrong are far outnumbered by the daily examples of this technology being used to automate discriminatory policing and exacerbate existing injustices in our deeply racist criminal justice system. This inherently oppressive technology cannot be reformed or regulated. It should be abolished.”

Backed by dozens of other grassroots organizations, Fight for the Future leads  the national campaign calling for an outright ban on law enforcement and government use of facial recognition, as well as corporate and private use of the technology on workers and the public. Even seemingly innocuous uses of facial recognition, like speeding up lines or using your face as a form of payment, normalize the act of handing over sensitive biometric information and pose a serious threat to security and civil liberties. The group is also providing support for activists on the ground pushing for bans at the local level.

Fight for the Future worked with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and other artists to lead a successful campaign to keep facial recognition technology out of US music festivals and live concerts. More than 40 of the worlds’ largest festivals including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW confirmed they won’t use the tech at their events. The group then worked with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy to get more than 60 prominent colleges and universities to confirm they won’t use facial recognition on campus. 150+ university faculty issued an open letter echoing student demands to ban the use of face surveillance on college campuses. Last month, the group launched a campaign to push retailers to commit to not using facial recognition on shoppers and workers in stores—thus far Walmart, Kroger, and more major corporations have told Fight for the Future that they do not plan to use the technology.

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