Tucked into the police reform bill introduced by the House today are provisions for using body cameras along with a cursory rebuff of facial recognition, prompting privacy advocates to call for legislators to clarify that the technology should only be used for accountability, not surveillance.
“Any reform legislation should make clear that face recognition cannot be used on footage from the body cameras of federal law enforcement, and should similarly restrict federal funds from being used by local law enforcement agencies who do not implement the same restrictions,” ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement. “We need to invest in technologies that can help eliminate the digital divide, not technologies that create a surveillance infrastructure that exacerbates policing abuses and structural racism."
House Democrats crafted the bill in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis police officers, who have since been arrested on an array of charges. In addition to addressing use of force and military grade weapons, the bill requires “uniformed officers with the authority to conduct searches and make arrests [to] wear a body camera” and specifies the circumstances under which officers must obtain consent – for instance, when entering a crime victim’s home – to continue recording.
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