The US has introduced a new law that will restrict the use of controversial facial recognition technology by law enforcement.
The new law, which applies only to the state of Washington, was signed by Governor Jay Inslee yesterday.
It means that government agencies will only be able to run facial recognition scans if they first obtain a warrant, except in an emergency.
It also means that all facial recognition tech used by the government must be able to be tested for “accuracy and unfair performance differences across distinct subpopulations.”
This means that the scan must not be biased based on race, ethnicity, gender, or age, for example.
But there have been reports that civil rights groups say the bill does not go far enough and have called for an outright ban on such technology.
Some believe that the use of facial recognition by government is an infringement of personal freedoms.
The legislature states: “Unconstrained use of facial recognition services by state and local government agencies poses broad social ramifications that should be considered and addressed.
“Accordingly, legislation is required to establish safeguards that will allow state and local government agencies to use facial recognition services in a manner that benefits society while prohibiting uses that threaten our democratic freedoms and put our civil liberties at risk.”
The bill, known as SB6280, has received mixed reception from companies and privacy groups.
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Similarly, Jeff Bezos, CEO of tech behemoth Amazon, appeared at an Amazon press reception last September to comment on facial recognition regulation, according to a Geekwire report.
He said: “Good regulation in this arena would be very welcome, I think, by all the players.
“It’s a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you don’t want to put the brakes on it. At the same time, there’s lots of potential for abuses of that technology, so you do want regulation.”
Other aspects of the bill state that government personnel using facial recognition tech must be periodically trained in its use.
Government agencies must also not use such technology based on anyone’s religious, political or social views or activities.
In the UK, police forces in London and south Wales have been using automatic facial recognition tech to help identify wanted suspects.