A coalition of activist groups representing more than 15 million combined members is pushing for a federal ban on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology.
The groups, which are planning to blanket lawmakers with emails and phone calls, are coming together under BanFacialRecognition, which was organized by the digital rights group Fight for the Future as a way to show the public exactly where and how the controversial surveillance technology is being used nationwide.
“Facial recognition is one of the most authoritarian and invasive forms of surveillance ever created and it’s spreading like an epidemic. … We need to ban this technology outright, treat it like biological or nuclear weapons and prevent it from proliferating before it’s too late,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of the group, in a statement provided to Fox News.
The technology has been banned by three cities — Oakland and San Francisco in California and Somerville, Mass. — and at least one 2020 presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has called for a ban on its use by law enforcement.
Two tests of Amazon’s facial recognition software, which the tech giant claims can now detect “fear,” falsely labeled California state lawmakers and members of Congress as criminal suspects.
Most of the false positives were people of color in both tests.
The Jeff Bezos-led company has said that it encourages law enforcement agencies to use 99% confidence ratings for public safety applications of the technology. Amazon’s Ring security service, which deploys facial recognition technology, is reportedly working with more than 200 police departments.
“When using facial recognition to identify persons of interest in an investigation, law enforcement should use the recommended 99 percent confidence threshold and only use those predictions as one element of the investigation” and not the sole determinant, the company said in a blog post earlier this year.
The grassroots coalition, which includes Consumer Action, Restore the Fourth, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Color of Change, United We Dream and Media Justice, is united in the belief that regulating the technology isn’t enough.
“We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. There is nothing democratic about facial recognition technology — no one is truly free when our faces can be monitored and captured as we go about our daily business,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action, in a statement to Fox News. “Facial recognition technology is notoriously inaccurate and biased. Deploying it on an unsuspecting public in the name of ‘crime-fighting’ is a crime in itself.”
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