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Democratic Lawmakers Limit Federal Use of Facial Recognition Technology

June 29, 2020 / Aaron Boyd

A bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation to ban the use of facial recognition technologies by all federal agencies without explicit authorization from Congress. On Thursday, Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020. The bill’s long title offers a fuller picture of the lawmakers’ intent: To prohibit biometric surveillance by the federal government without explicit statutory authorization and to withhold certain federal public safety grants from state and local governments that engage in biometric surveillance. For federal agencies, that would mean a blanket ban on the use of “any biometric surveillance system” that uses facial recognition technology or “information derived from a biometric surveillance system operated by another entity,” including another authorized federal agency or through a contracted vendor.