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Maine’s facial recognition law shows bipartisan support for privacy – TechCrunch

Maine has joined a growing number of cities, counties and states rejecting dangerously biased surveillance technologies like facial recognition.

The new law, which is the strictest statewide facial recognition law in the country, not only received broad bipartisan support, but was also passed unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature. Lawmakers and advocates across the political spectrum – from the progressive lawmaker who sponsored the bill to Republican members who voted it out of committee, from the ACLU of Maine to law enforcement agencies in the State – have come together to secure this major victory for the Mainers and anyone who cares about their right to privacy.

Maine is just the latest achievement in the national movement to ban or tightly regulate the use of facial recognition technology, an effort led by activists and grassroots organizations like the ACLU. From Pine Tree State to Golden State, national efforts to regulate facial recognition demonstrate wide recognition that we cannot let technology determine the limits of our digital century.

Facial recognition technology poses a serious threat to civil rights and civil liberties. Without democratic control, governments can use technology as a tool for net surveillance, threatening our freedoms of expression and association, due process rights and the right to be left alone. Democracy itself is at stake if this technology remains unregulated.

Facial recognition technology poses a serious threat to civil rights and civil liberties.

We know the burdens of facial recognition are not borne as well, as black and brown communities – especially Muslim and immigrant communities – are already the target of discriminatory government surveillance. To make matters worse, facial monitoring algorithms tend to have a harder time accurately analyzing the faces of people with darker skin, women, the elderly, and children. Simply put: technology is dangerous when it works and when it doesn’t.

But not all approaches to regulating this technology are created equal. Maine is among the first in the country to adopt comprehensive statewide regulations. Washington was the first to pass a weak law in the face of strong opposition from civil rights, community and religious freedom organizations. The law was passed in large part thanks to strong support from the Washington-based Microsoft mega-corporation. Washington’s facial recognition law would still allow tech companies to sell their multi-million dollar technology to any government agency imaginable.

In contrast, Maine law takes a different course, placing the interests of ordinary Mainers above the profit motives of private companies.

Maine’s new law prohibits the use of facial recognition technology in most areas of government, including public schools and for surveillance purposes. It creates carefully defined exceptions for law enforcement to use facial recognition, creating standards for its use and avoiding the potential for abuse we’ve seen in other parts of the country. Importantly, it bans the use of facial recognition technology to monitor people as they go about their business in Maine, attend political meetings and protests, visit friends and family, and seek medical care. health.

Law enforcement in Maine now has to – among other limitations – meet a probable cause standard before applying for facial recognition, and they cannot use a facial recognition match as the sole basis to stop or search someone. Local police departments also cannot purchase, own or use their own facial recognition software, ensuring that shady technologies like Clearview AI will not be used by Maine government officials behind closed doors, as has happened. produced in other states.

Maine law and other similar laws are crucial in preventing communities from being harmed by new, untested surveillance technologies like facial recognition. But we need a federal approach, not just a piecemeal local approach, to effectively protect the privacy of Americans from face surveillance. That’s why it’s crucial that Americans support the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, a bill introduced by members of both houses of Congress last month.

The ACLU supports this federal legislation that would protect everyone in the United States from invasive surveillance. We urge all Americans to call on their members of Congress to join the movement to stop facial recognition technology and support it as well.

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