wordpress blog stats
Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Bill in US Congress proposes to ban federal agencies from using facial recognition tech and any other biometric surveillance system

Source: Microsoft blog

Members of the United States Congress on Thursday introduced a bill which proposes to prohibit federal agencies and officials from acquiring, possessing, accessing, and even using “any biometric surveillance system”, such as facial recognition technology. The bill even stops federal agencies from using information derived by such systems operated by other entities. It also proposes to withhold federal funding through the Byrne grant program for state and local governments that use the technology.

Called the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, 2020, the bill has been drafted by senators Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, and representatives Ayanna Pressley, and Pramila Jaypal. The bill follows an incident in Detroit where a black man was wrongfully arrested by the police based on incorrect information provided by a facial recognition system. The bill also comes only days after the city of Boston banned the use of facial recognition technology by the city’s government, and prohibited any city official from obtaining the technology from third parties. Senator Merkley has previously co-drafted a similar bill, seeking a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology.

“Introduced on the same day that the House is set to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, our legislation will not only protect civil liberties but it will aggressively fight back against racial injustice by stopping federal entities from using facial recognition tools and stripping support for state and local law enforcement departments that use biometric technology,” congresswoman Jaypal said in a statement.

Provisions of the bill

Information from biometric systems can’t be used in judicial proceedings: The bill also prohibits the use of information collected via biometric technology in violation of the Act in any judicial proceedings. It also gives grounds to citizens, aggrieved by violation of the bill, to start legal proceedings against a federal official who used biometric surveillance on them. The bill also allows the chief law enforcement officer of a state to initiate civil action on behalf of residents who have been affected by use of biometric surveillance in them.

Penalties for violating the bill: Any Federal official who is found to have violated the bill may be subject to retraining, suspension, termination, or any other penalty, as determined in an appropriate tribunal.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Bars law enforcement agencies from using federal funds to buy biometric surveillance systems: No federal funds may be used by a federal law enforcement agency for the purchase or use of biometric surveillance systems. It is also barred from using unallocated funds already appropriated to it.

Exceptions: The only time federal agencies can use facial recognition or other biometric surveillance tools is when they have been explicitly authorised to do so by an Act of Congress. Even then, any such Act will have to specify the entities permitted to use the biometric surveillance systems, types of biometric authorised, purposes for such use, and any prohibited uses. It’ll also have to define standards of data retention, sharing, access, and audit trails, among other things.

  • The US’ National Institute of Standards and Technology, can continue testing and researching biometric surveillance systems or other remote biometric recognition technologies that are in commercial use.

The protests in the US against racial discrimination, following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, have forced companies to take a stand against facial recognition, especially because the technology is known to be biased, particularly against people of colour and other underrepresented communities. Microsoft has said that it will not sell the tech to police in the US until a federal law, while Amazon has committed to doing the same, albeit just for a year. IBM has said that it will altogether stop offering “general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software”. Amazon’s facial recognition tool Rekognition, for instance, misidentified 28 members of Congress as criminals. Research, in general, has shown that facial recognition tools are worse at detecting and identify faces of darker-skinned people, thereby creating ample room for discrimination and persecution.

Written By

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



The Delhi High Court should quash the government's order to block Tanul Thakur's website in light of the Shreya Singhal verdict by the Supreme...


Releasing the policy is akin to putting the proverbial 'cart before the horse'.


The industry's growth is being weighed down by taxation and legal uncertainty.


Due to the scale of regulatory and technical challenges, transparency reporting under the IT Rules has gotten off to a rocky start.


Here are possible reasons why Indians are not generating significant IAP revenues despite our download share crossing 30%.

You May Also Like


Google has released a Google Travel Trends Report which states that branded budget hotel search queries grew 179% year over year (YOY) in India, in...


135 job openings in over 60 companies are listed at our free Digital and Mobile Job Board: If you’re looking for a job, or...


Rajesh Kumar* doesn’t have many enemies in life. But, Uber, for which he drives a cab everyday, is starting to look like one, he...


By Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru You’re reading it here first: Twitter has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised...

MediaNama is the premier source of information and analysis on Technology Policy in India. More about MediaNama, and contact information, here.

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ

Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ