Maine has joined a growing number of cities, counties and states that are rejecting dangerously biased surveillance techniques such as facial recognition.
The new law, the country’s most face-to-face statewide recognition law, not only received widespread, bipartisan support, but passed unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature. Legislators and advocates spread across the political spectrum – the progressive legislators who sponsored the bill to Republican members who voted outside the committee – gathered to secure this big win for state law enforcement agencies – miners and anyone from Maine’s ACLU. Cares for their right to privacy.
Mauni is the latest success story of a nationwide movement to ban or strictly control the use of facial recognition technology, an effort organized by grassroots activists and organizations such as the ACLU. From the Pine Tree State to the Golden State, the national effort to control facial recognition reflects the widespread belief that we cannot limit the limits of our freedom to technology in the digital 21.Std Century.
Facial recognition technology is a threat to civil rights and civil liberties. Without democratic oversight, governments can use technology as a tool of dragnet surveillance, threatening our freedom of speech and association, granting rights to the process, and leaving the right alone. Democracy itself is in jeopardy if this technology remains uncontrolled.
Facial recognition technology is a threat to civil rights and civil liberties.
We know that the burden of facial recognition is not taken uniformly, as black and brown communities – especially Muslim and immigrant communities – are already targets of discriminatory government oversight. To make matters worse, facial monitoring algorithms make it more difficult to accurately analyze the faces of dark-skinned people, women, the elderly, and children. Simply put: technology is dangerous when it works – and when it doesn’t.
But not all approaches to controlling this technique are created equal. Maine is the first in the country to pass statewide comprehensive rules. Washington Washington was the first to pass a weak law to counter strong opposition from civil rights, community and religious freedom organizations. The law was largely passed due to strong support from Washington-based Washington-based mega-corporation MicroSF. Washington’s face recognition law will still allow tech companies to sell their technology for millions of dollars to every imaginable government agency.
In contrast, Maine’s law would create a different path, in which the interests of ordinary miners are put 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 surveillance purposes. It creates carefully crafted exceptions for law enforcement to use facial recognition, sets standards for its use and avoids the possibility of abuse we see in other parts of the country. Importantly, people in Maine are prohibited from using facial recognition technology to monitor people about their business, at political meetings and protests, visiting friends and family, and seeking healthcare.
In Maine, law enforcement must now – among other limitations – meet the probable cause standard before requesting facial recognition, and they cannot use facial recognition matching as the sole basis for arresting or locating someone. While local police departments may not purchase, capture, or use their own facial recognition software, shady technology such as Clearview AI will not be used behind closed doors by Maine government officials, as has been the case in other states.
Maine’s law and others like it are crucial to preventing communities from being harmed by new, undetected surveillance techniques such as facial recognition. We need a federal approach to effectively protect Americans’ privacy from face-to-face surveillance, not just a local one. That’s why it’s crucial for Americans to support the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, a bill introduced by members of both houses of Congress last month.
The ACLU upholds this federal law that will protect all people in the United States from aggressive surveillance. We urge all Americans to join and support the movement to stop facial recognition technology from their members of Congress.