The state of Washington has made it legal for law enforcement and other state agencies to use facial recognition. The new law makes Washington the first state in the US to legalize facial recognition software for government business. Facial recognition has been used by a number of law enforcement agencies at the city and county level, but it has never been formally legalized at either the state or federal level. Washington has become the first state in the US to officially legalize facial recognition software for law enforcement, which it says will be limited to finding missing persons, identifying the deceased, and'for the purposes of keeping the public safe' According to the law, facial recognition will be limited to a handful of uses, including efforts to'locate or identify missing persons, and identify deceased persons, including missing or murdered indigenous women, subjects of Amber alerts and silver alerts, and other possible crime victims, for the purposes of keeping the public safe.' Agencies that want to use facial recognition technology will have to file a notice of intent with the state government along with an accountability report that details how and why they need the technology, according to a report in InfoSecurity.
Microsoft President Brad Smith took a break from responding to the COVID-19 outbreak Tuesday to praise Washington state's landmark facial recognition regulations. Jay Inslee signed a bill Tuesday that establishes rules specifically governing facial recognition software. Smith called the law an "early and important model" and "a significant breakthrough" in a blog post published Tuesday. Some cities have enacted their own facial recognition rules, but Washington is the first to establish statewide regulations. "This balanced approach ensures that facial recognition can be used as a tool to protect the public, but only in ways that respect fundamental rights and serve the public interest," Smith said.
In a previously undocumented use of facial recognition software, police in Washington state are using Amazon's'Rekognition' to track down criminals with as little as an artist's sketch. According to a report from The Washington Post, police in Washington County are able to compare pictures of suspects harvested from security cameras and eye-witness' cell phone pictures against databases containing 300,000 mugshots of known criminals. In just Washington County Police Department alone, the report states more than 1,000 facial scans were logged last year which have helped identify subjects, sometimes leading officers to home arrests. Amazon's facial recognition software is being used to process criminal sketches in an unprecedented deployment of the technology in law enforcement. While law enforcement say the software has been a critical tool in expediting investigations and tracking down otherwise elusive criminals, skeptics say the use of facial recognition opens up a proverbial Pandora's Box of mass surveillance that could lead to more false identifications.