‘A tool of government suppression:’ Advocates, lawmakers concerned about facial recognition tech
State lawmakers and civil liberty advocates expressed their concerns for facial recognition technology during a hearing in Trenton on Monday.
The technology is now being used to match social media images with information about a person’s identity. But there is some concern about privacy and how far that information can go.
“Every day we’re online. Every day we’re doing something where we are giving up a piece of who we are,” says Democratic New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.
Those who are concerned say that companies like Clearview AI are mining social media to build a database of images and then selling their ability to match a person’s face with personal information.
"What George Orwell could never have imagined from 1984 to today, is that through social media, we are already giving our information out into the cloud each and every day through what we put onto our social media feed,” Zwicker says.
Police departments and law enforcement nationwide have just started to use facial recognition. The state Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee held a hearing on the risks this could pose to civil liberties.
"This is not totally hypothetical that this could be a tool of totalitarianism and a tool of government suppression,” says Farrin Anello with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
State Assemblyman Herb Conaway says that he is particularly concerned about the “misidentification of a lot of these software programs, particularly as it relates to persons of color."
"It's clear that facial recognition technology can be used for public safety measures but there's a tradeoff,” says Zwicker.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has banned state law enforcement from using Clearview's product amid controversy. But there are other companies working on facial recognition. Zwicker has sponsored a bill that would require a public hearing before local law enforcement could use facial recognition software.
"Allowing our law enforcement agencies to hurdle forward in experimenting with facial recognition before we even understand the civil liberties implications is a huge problem and something we can stop now,” Anello says.
Zwicker also co-sponsoring a bill to make DNA samples used for testing the private property of the person who donated them.