US Congress Aims to Regulate Facial Recognition Arrest

The US Congress this week held a public hearing to assess law enforcement agents’ use of facial recognition technology. Deputies from the two main parties in the country agreed to draft stricter laws to avoid unfair arrests for the use of technological devices.

Robert Williams, who was arrested after being misidentified by Detroit Police Department software, testified to the House of Representatives subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security. In 2020, the black man was identified from a grainy image from security cameras and was detained for 30 hours without food or water.

The hearing came after the Government Accountability Office, the congressional body responsible for investigating government accounts, called for more efforts by US federal agencies, such as the FBI, to avoid prejudice and misuse of their facial recognition systems.

Technology can reinforce prejudice

Robert Williams was wrongfully arrested in Detroit after being misidentified through a facial recognition system.  (Source: YouTube/Reproduction)
Robert Williams was wrongfully arrested in Detroit after being misidentified through a facial recognition system. (Source: YouTube/Reproduction)Source: YouTube/Reproduction

Human rights activists denounce that facial recognition systems are contaminated by a prejudiced view against women and black people, creating pretexts for law enforcement authorities to act disproportionately, as happened with Robert Williams, among other cases.

“The large-scale adoption of this technology would inject more inequality into the system at a time when we should move to make the criminal justice system more equitable,” Democratic Party MP Sheila Jackson Lee said at the hearing.

lack of regulation

Experts who testified at the hearing acknowledged the law enforcement’s legitimate use of the technology, but said there is no government regulation and also a lack of training by the police or other authorities who use the software.

“When there’s no regulation, we’re going to have errors, (data) breaches and all kinds of problems,” said Barry Friedman, a law professor at New York University. The professor suggested that the technology should be used by law enforcement authorities only in cases of serious crimes.

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