New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WF-Manhattan) introduced legislation that would (i) prohibit law enforcement from using biometric surveillance technology and (ii) create a task force to evaluate whether such technology could be used in the future.

According to Mr. Hoylman, the use of facial recognition and other biometric information (e.g., fingerprints, handprints, retina and iris patterns, DNA sequences, voices, gaits, and facial geometry) by law enforcement presents serious privacy and civil liberties issues. The draft bill outlines concerns regarding biometric surveillance technology, such as:

  • the lack of regulation across "all levels" of U.S. government regarding (i) use by private entities, (ii) data retention, (iii) privacy protections and (iv) use in law enforcement investigations;
  • recent abuses, such as law enforcement agencies (i) using sealed mugshots and arrest photos of juveniles in facial recognition databases and (ii) running photos of celebrity look-alikes through facial recognition software to identify suspects;
  • studies finding that the technology is particularly inaccurate when used on "women, young people and people of color"; and
  • the app Clearview AI - which sells a database of three billion internet images from Facebook, YouTube and other websites to law enforcement agencies.

If passed, the bill would:

  • prohibit law enforcement from using any biometric information from surveillance systems in the course of their duties, with the exceptions of (i) mobile fingerprint scanning, (ii) DNA and fingerprint comparisons, and (iii) lawfully installed security systems that process biometric information solely for the purpose of verifying the identity of police personnel;
  • establish a task force of 12 members that would examine biometric surveillance systems in order specifically to assess (i) the current and proposed uses, (ii) current and proposed regulations, (iii) their effectiveness, efficacy and accuracy, (iv) the potential benefits and harms, and (v) their use by law enforcement.

The New York Senate is also considering other measures to limit the use of facial recognition and other biometric information, such as:

  • Assembly Bill A6787C, to study the use of biometric identifying technology in elementary and secondary schools and prohibit such use in schools until July 1, 2022; and
  • Senate Bill S5642, to require companies that collect personal data to obtain prior "express and documented consent" from consumers.

Commentary

The New York state legislator is making data privacy a priority by repeatedly proposing measures aimed at protecting the privacy of New York's residents. One key proposal is aimed at restricting the use of biometrics by the police. While many early targets center on the public sector, it is anticipated that similar legislation regarding the private sector will follow. Popular technologies, such as Clearview AI, may be targeted more directly by legislators in the near future.

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