WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced bipartisan legislation to require federal law enforcement to obtain a court order before using facial recognition technology to conduct targeted ongoing public surveillance. The use of facial recognition technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement to protect and ensure public safety; however, if used improperly, this technology can quickly become invasive and could violate the privacy of individual Americans. The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act will help to implement important safeguards to protect the American public from inappropriate government surveillance.
 
“Right now, there is a lack of uniformity when it comes to how, when, and where the federal government deploys facial recognition technology,” said Senator Coons. “I’m proud to introduce legislation with Senator Lee that would set clear rules around federal use of the technology by requiring the government to obtain a probable cause warrant if and when it wants to specifically target and track an American. This bipartisan bill strikes the right balance by making sure law enforcement has the tools necessary to keep us safe while also protecting fundamental Fourth Amendment privacy rights.”
 
“Facial recognition technology can be a powerful tool for law enforcement officials,” said Senator Lee. “But it’s very power also makes it ripe for abuse. That is why American citizens deserve protection from facial recognition abuse. This bill accomplishes that by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting ongoing surveillance of a target.”
 
“We support the bipartisan leadership of Senators Coons and Lee to introduce meaningful reform of law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology,” said Fred Humphries, corporate vice president of U.S. Government Affairs at Microsoft. “The bill provides clarity for law enforcement to be transparent about its use of facial recognition technology, both for human review when facial recognition is in use and testing for accuracy. The bill also ensures that law enforcement will seek a warrant before it can use this technology for ongoing surveillance, except in certain emergency circumstances.  We’re grateful for the Senators’ leadership and are encouraged to see introduction of a new legal framework. Microsoft is committed to working with all stakeholders as the legislation advances in Congress.”
 
The Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act would:
  • Require federal law enforcement to obtain a warrant based upon a showing of a probable cause of criminal activity in order to utilize facial recognition technology for the purpose of ongoing public surveillance of an individual.
  • Limit the warrant’s allowance of ongoing surveillance to a maximum of 30 days and require the use of the facial recognition technology to be conducted in such a way as to minimize the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of information regarding individuals outside the warrant’s purview.
  • Permit law enforcement to use facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance without a court order in exigent circumstances.
  • Require the judge issuing or denying the warrant application to report the outcome of the warrant application to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts which must catalogue the data and submit a summarized report to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.
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    A one-pager on the bill is available here
     
    The bill text is available here.
     

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