This week EFF joined a coalition letter asking the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) to urge that the government suspend its use of face recognition technology. The letter was signed by organizations like Color of Change, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Project on Government Oversight, to name a few.

In it, the groups point to the many ways that face recognition can track people, presumes guilt of the people whose faces have been collected or identified, and can even misidentify them to great consequence. “While we do not believe that that improved accuracy of facial recognition would justify further deployment,” the letter’s authors write, “we do believe that the obvious problems with bias and discrimination in the systems that are currently in use is an additional reason to recommend a blanket moratorium.”

The letter even points to recent startling revelations regarding Clearview AI, a wholly unregulated company that provices face recognition capability to more than 600 law enforcement agencies around the United States.

PCLOB is an independent agency in the executive branch that published a 2014 report on warrantless surveillance of the Internet by the U.S. intelligence community. In July 2019, it announced that it would be investigating a number of big topics in the national security and civil liberties sphere, including facial recognition and other biometric technologies being used in airport security.

This new wave of activism comes in the wake of a number of cities across the United States banning and passing long-term moratoriums on police use of face recognition technology. EFF has been doing our part to support local ordinances banning this invasive and harmful technology. We’ve also recently launched About Face, a new project that provides cities and states interested in banning the technology with a toolkit and a model bill.

We hope that PCLOB will take up the call from these organizations and do its part to end the government’s use and misuse of this dangerous technology.


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