US committee to look at face recognition
22 May 2019 11:03 GMT

The US Commitee on Oversight and Reform is to hold a hearing that will examine the use of facial recognition technology by government and commercial entities and the need for oversight on how this technology is used on civilians.  

In a statement, the body said facial recognition technology uses an automated process to analyze faces captured in images and video to identify or confirm the identity of individuals.  There are currently no federal regulations regarding the use of facial recognition technology for commercial or government use.

"The use of facial recognition technology by the government poses potential questions of constitutionality under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.  These questions are yet untested as the Supreme Court has not directly ruled upon the constitutionality of police use of facial recognition technology upon citizens."

During the 115th Congress, the Committee launched an investigation into federal law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recommending that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) make numerous changes to its facial recognition database to improve its data security and ensure privacy, accuracy, and transparency.  In April 2019, GAO released a letter to the Department of Justice highlighting six priority open recommendations that the FBI has yet to implement fully. 

During a 2017 hearing, the Committee found that 18 states have memorandums of understanding with the FBI to share their databases with the federal agency and that, as a result, over half of American adults are part of a facial recognition database.  

The Committee also found that facial recognition technology misidentifies women and minorities and a much higher rate than white males, increasing the risk of racial and gender bias.

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