Members of Congress supported a plan to draft legislation aimed at the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement on Wednesday (May 22), according to reports.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform called for action on the plan, which gathered support from both sides of the aisle.
“You’ve hit the sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together,” Rep. Mark Meadows told committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings. “When you have a diverse group on this committee, as diverse as you might see on the polar ends, I’m here to tell you we’re serious about this, and let’s get together and work on legislation. The time is now before it gets out of control.”
“That just means that it’s more important that Congress acts,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez in response to the Amazon shareholders’ vote.
Cummings and the Committee even discussed having a moratorium on the technology. “I do expect that we are going to be able to get some legislation out on this. I talked to the ranking member, and there is a lot of agreement,” he said. “The question is, do you have an all-out moratorium and at the same time, try to see how this process can be perfected? But there’s a lot of agreement here. Thank God.”
Facial recognition technology is accessible to one in four law enforcement agencies across the country, according to a study by Georgetown University Law Center. Also, the use of databases of drivers’ license photos means about half of adults in the U.S. are included in searches.
One of the other concerns is use of the software during protests, which some experts worry could dissuade Americans from protesting, which is a First Amendment-protected right.
“It is fundamentally American to protest, and frankly un-American to chill that kind of protest,” University of the District of Columbia Law Professor Andrew Ferguson said at the Committee meeting.