A group of privacy and civil liberties groups wrote a letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) urging the board to demand that the President and Secretary of Homeland Security suspend the use of facial recognition systems by Federal agencies.

The Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Electronic Privacy Information Center, among other organizations, cite instances of state and local governments taking steps to protect U.S. citizens from the use of facial recognition for mass surveillance and maintain privacy and that “the rapid and unregulated deployment of facial recognition poses a direct threat to ‘the precious liberties that are vital to our way of life.’”

Additionally, the group highlighted concerns of facial recognition bias in systems which – according to a recent study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology – are 100 times more likely to produce false positives for Asian and African American faces when compared to white faces.

“While we do not believe that that improved accuracy of facial recognition would justify further deployment, we do believe that the obvious problems with bias and discrimination in the systems that are currently in use is an additional reason to recommend a blanket moratorium,” the organizations wrote.

Facial recognition has been a topic of discussion on The Hill and at a Jan. 15 House Oversight Committee hearing, members expressed support for some form of Federal regulation on facial recognition.

“It is clear that, despite the private sector’s expanded use of the technology, it is just not ready for prime time,” Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said at the time. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was more qualifying in his support of regulation by stating that he would not unnecessarily hamper private sector innovation but must address the government’s unchecked use of facial recognition.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.