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Dems Propose 5-Year Wait On Facial Recognition Technology

State legislators want a five-year moratorium on use of any system that would pair facial recognition or biometric surveillance systems on police body cameras.

A.10913/S.6776 was introduced in the state Assembly and Senate recently by Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, D-Bronx, and Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-New York City.

Hoylman and Fernandez say there is evidence that facial recognition technology is less accurate when analyzing faces of color than when analyzing white faces, citing a 2018 study from MIT and Stanford University examining commercially available facial analysis programs created by three companies which found the programs’ rates of error in determining the gender of light-skinned men were never worse than .8%, but the rates of error for dark-skinned women were significantly higher, with two of the programs showing an error rate of more than 34%. The legislators also cited an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ran a test of another widely available facial recognition tool by comparing photos of members of Congress with a database of mugshots, and the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress with individuals who had been arrested for a crime. A disproportionate number of the incorrect matches were people of color.

“Given the serious concerns that have been raised, New York’s law enforcement should not presently be permitted to deploy or rely on demonstrably inaccurate, flawed technology as a policing tool that could potentially lead to wrongful arrest or imprisonment,” Fernandez and Hoylman wrote in their legislative justification.

Sens. Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley have proposed federal legislation that would prohibit federal agencies from spending money on facial recognition, voice recognition or gait recognition software without explicit Congressional authorization. The federal legislation would also restrict state and local governments from using those technologies by withholding federal grant money for criminal justice programs until local governments pass their own bans.

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