Members of Congress introduced a new bill on Thursday that would ban government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools. Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley announced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, which they said resulted from a growing body of research that "points to systematic inaccuracy and bias issues in biometric technologies which pose disproportionate risks to non-white individuals." The bill came just one day after the first documented instance of police mistakenly arresting a man due to facial recognition software. There has been long-standing, widespread concern about the use of facial recognition software from lawmakers, researchers rights groups and even the people behind the technology. Multiple studies over the past three years have repeatedly proven that the tool is still not accurate, especially for people with darker skin.
Bipartisanship in modern politics can seem kind of like an unbelievable, mythical creature. But in recent months, as Congress considered regulation of one of the most controversial topics it faces -- how, when, or if to use facial recognition -- we've gotten glimpses of a political unicorn. In two House Oversight and Reform committee hearings last summer, some of the most prominent Republicans and Democrats in the United States Congress joined together in calls for legislative reform. Proponents of regulation ranged from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a frequent Trump supporter on cable news. On Friday, Jordan was also appointed to the House Intelligence Committee to confront witnesses in public presidential impeachment hearings that begin this week.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Amazon's controversial facial recognition program, Rekognition, falsely identified 28 members of Congress during a test of the program by the American Civil Liberties Union, the civil rights group said Thursday. In its test, the ACLU scanned photos of all members of Congress and had the system compare them with a public database of 25,000 mugshots. The group used the default "confidence threshold" setting of 80 percent for Rekognition, meaning the test counted a face match at 80 percent certainty or more. At that setting, the system misidentified 28 members of Congress, a disproportionate number of whom were people of color, tagging them instead as entirely different people who have been arrested for a crime. The faces of members of Congress used in the test include Republicans and Democrats, men and women and legislators of all ages.
Amazon will continue to sell its controversial facial recognition software to law enforcement and other entities after its shareholders shot down a proposal to reel the technology in. The vote effectively kills two initiatives brought before Amazon's board. One proposal would have required board approval to sell the software to governments, with approval only being given if the client meets certain standards of civil liberties. Another proposal called for a study on the technology's implications on rights and privacy. The exact breakdown of the vote is unclear and according to an Amazon representative it will only be made available via SEC filings later this week.
Amazon's facial recognition tool is being referred to as a'recipe for authoritarianism and disaster' after it was revealed to be used by law enforcement officials. Now experts say it raises even greater concerns, as the artificial intelligence used to power the technology could exhibit racial bias. Many are calling on Amazon to release data that shows they've trained the software to reduce bias, but it has yet to do so. A controversial facial recognition tool, dubbed Rekognition, marketed to police has been defended by its creator, online retailer Amazon. The controversy was spurred by a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which found that Amazon's facial recognition tool, dubbed'Rekognition', is being used by law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida.