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Face Recognition In the U.S. Is About to Meet One of Its Biggest Tests

July 20, 2023

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Just four years ago, the movement to ban police departments from using face recognition in the US was riding high. By the end of 2020, around 18 cities had enacted laws forbidding the police from adopting the technology. US lawmakers proposed a pause on the federal government's use of the tech. 

In the years since, that effort has slowed to a halt. Five municipal bans on police and government use passed in 2021, but none in 2022 or in 2023 so far, according to a database from the digital rights group Fight for the Future. Some local bans have even been partially repealed, and today, few seriously believe that a federal ban on police use of face recognition could pass in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, without legal limits on its use, the technology has only grown more ingrained in people's day-to-day lives.

However, in Massachusetts there is hope for those who want to restrict police access to face recognition. The state's lawmakers are currently thrashing out a bipartisan state bill that seeks to limit police use of the technology. Although it's not a full ban, it would mean that only state police could use it, not all law enforcement agencies.

The bill, which could come to a vote imminently, may represent an unsatisfying compromise, both to police who want more freedom to use the technology and to activists who want it completely banned. But it represents a vital test of the prevailing mood around police use of these controversial tools.

From MIT Technology Review
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