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US politicians want biometric surveillance tamed, but voices are fainter

Opponents of the use of facial recognition algorithms by law enforcement in the United States may not be in a rearguard posture, but that day may be near.

A trio of federal Democratic legislators and officials in a New Jersey village have issued separate statements over the last couple weeks reacting to or expressing skepticism of the technology.

But political and popular sentiment has been drifting away from restraining biometric systems over the last couple of years. More prevalent today is the idea that facial recognition can play a meaningful role in addressing sometimes-exaggerated perceptions of crime.

This week, leaders of South Orange, N.J., were forced to respond to worries in the community that police video camera upgrades around town would make facial recognition surveillance possible.

Citing facial recognition’s spotty accuracy record in U.S. policing and the bias of some algorithms toward middle-aged white men, the village’s president reportedly told news publication Government Technology that South Orange “will not be using facial recognition technology.”

Police officials categorically denied that the department’s camera network can or are able to recognize a face and are not linked to any face databases.

And just last month, three Democratic lawmakers said they had formally requested information from the FBI about how its agents use facial recognition technology and databases.

The request, signed by California Congressman Ted W. Lieu, New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, specifically mentions the bureau’s Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation Services unit and its Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System.

They acknowledge that facial recognition can be helpful in apprehending serious criminals, but uses are growing in unforeseen directions that could evolve into broad restrictions on human rights. Opponents of the use of facial recognition algorithms by law enforcement in the United States may not be in a rearguard posture, but that day may be near.

A trio of federal Democratic legislators and officials in a New Jersey village have issued separate statements over the last couple weeks reacting to or expressing skepticism of the technology.

But political and popular sentiment has been drifting away from restraining biometric systems over the last couple of years. More prevalent today is the idea that facial recognition can play a meaningful role in addressing sometimes-exaggerated perceptions of crime.

This week, leaders of South Orange, N.J., were forced to respond to worries in the community that police video camera upgrades around town would make facial recognition surveillance possible.

Citing facial recognition’s spotty accuracy record in U.S. policing and the bias of some algorithms toward middle-aged white men, the village’s president reportedly told news publication Government Technology that South Orange “will not be using facial recognition technology.”

Police officials categorically denied that the department’s camera network can or are able to recognize a face and are not linked to any face databases.

And just last month, three Democratic lawmakers said they had formally requested information from the FBI about how its agents use facial recognition technology and databases.

The request, signed by California Congressman Ted W. Lieu, New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, specifically mentions the bureau’s Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation Services unit and its Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System.

They acknowledge that facial recognition can be helpful in apprehending serious criminals, but uses are growing in unforeseen directions that could evolve into broad restrictions on human rights.  Read More   

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