Civil society to Biden administration: halt facial recognition technology

Access Now joined over 40 civil society organizations in a letter to the Biden administration calling for a federal moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology. 

The development and rollout of facial recognition technology (FRT) should be stopped as soon as possible. Because a moratorium would immediately take the technology off the streets, it is a step in the right direction. However, Access Now supports a full ban on FRT and other biometric technologies that enable mass surveillance because they inherently undermine human and civil rights. 

“Facial recognition technology is extremely harmful,” said Jennifer Brody, U.S. Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “It is increasingly used to identify, surveil, and make life-altering decisions about people. Yet, the technology remains biased against communities of color, particularly Black people and Black women. While a ban is preferable because safeguards can never fully address the technology’s harms, a moratorium is better than nothing.”

The use of FRT to identify, single out, or track people will always enable and encourage mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance. For that reason it must be banned outright.

The Biden administration should also enable or adopt the following measures to address the human rights and racial justice impacts of FRT: 

  • Congress should pass a law banning federal law enforcement, including ICE, from using FRT.
  • Congress should pass a law preventing federal funds from being used to provide FRT to local law enforcement.
  • Congress should pass a law banning FRT in public housing.
  • President Biden should establish a task force within OSTP to investigate and share information about the use of FRT across federal agencies.
  • The FTC should prioritize investigations and meaningful enforcement action of FRT vendors when privacy, data protection, and other rules have been violated through their products’ development and use.