Monday, January 24

Activists demand that Congress ban the use of facial recognition

A coalition of nearly 70 community organizations and civil rights advocates from across the nation sent a letter to the United States Congress to pass measures that prohibit the use of facial recognition by the federal government and state authorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led the request that urges the Legislature to approve the bill for the Moratorium on Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology, which directly addresses the threats of facial recognition to civil rights and liberties.

Civil rights advocates argue that the use of facial recognition or other biometric surveillance technologies “puts the lives of African Americans, immigrants and others at risk,” according to a statement.

In that sense, Nicole Ozer, ACLU’s director of technology and civil liberties in Northern California, said in the statement that the harms of facial recognition are felt first-hand in communities, where that resource “used to increase the size of the racist police force, track activists, target immigrants, and prevent access to unemployment relief and other necessary public benefits”.

Ozer noted that across the country organizations are fighting to protect communities from the use of this technology.

For her part, Ashley Del Villar, coordinator of the digital privacy campaign of the organization La Resistencia, considered that American society is in “A critical moment” in the fight against facial recognition, alongside “a national awakening about racism and surveillance.”

Activists urge lawmakers to ban state and local governments from using federal funds to buy or use facial recognition.

They also urge that any effort by large technology companies to get ahead of state and local bans and moratoriums be rejected.

The open letter was also sent to the Government of President Joe Biden, which recently announced the use of a “app” new facial recognition, geographic location and digital technology to obtain and process information about asylum seekers before they enter the country.

In early June the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, indicated to Congress that the Biden Administration would request an allocation of 1.2 billion dollars to modernize and update the technology used in the ports of entry to the country.

The use of such technology by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) presents “enormous risks to privacy and is another step forward on a dangerous path,” said Ashley Gorski, ACLU attorney.

“Whenever a Government acquires the image of a person’s face there is a risk of persistent surveillance in which the Government can identify and follow the movements of the people without their knowledge”, he pointed.

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