Privacy & Data Security Law News

Federal Facial Recognition Tracking Needs Warrant in Senate Bill

Nov. 14, 2019, 7:21 PM

Federal law enforcement officials would have to get a warrant before using facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance under a new bipartisan Senate bill.

The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) would be the first federal restriction on law enforcement’s use of the technology. The bill, co-sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, would require a court order based on probable cause before law enforcement could use facial recognition tools to conduct persistent tracking of a person for more than 72 hours, whether in real time or through historical records.

“Right now, there is a lack of uniformity when it comes to how, when, and where the federal government deploys facial recognition technology,” Coons said in a statement. The bill “strikes the right balance by making sure law enforcement has the tools necessary to keep us safe while also protecting fundamental Fourth Amendment privacy rights,” he said.

Facial recognition use by law enforcement has drawn fire from privacy and civil liberties advocates and local, state and federal lawmakers. A handful of cities, including San Francisco, Calif. and Somerville, Mass., banned local government from using facial recognition earlier this year.

The bill also would require federal law enforcement agencies to work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create testing procedures that would “ensure the technology is accurate and does not have disparate error rates depending on a person’s gender, age, or ethnicity,” according to a billsummary.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Merken in Washington at smerken@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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