Facial recognition technology is now being used to unlock smartphones, automatically tag friends on Facebook and certain sectors of law enforcement are even finding uses for it. While it is a major advancement in the way we live our everyday lives, some senators believe this form of artificial intelligence poses a threat to civil rights.
Seven members of Congress sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission highlighting the risks of facial recognition technology.
“While they can offer many benefits, we are concerned by the mounting evidence that these technologies can perpetuate gender, racial, age, and other biases,” said the senators in their letter to the FTC.
In the letter to the EEOC, senators — including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren — questioned if the technologies could violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
In the letter to the FTC, senators said that facial recognition technology could lead to discrimination, saying people could be misidentified for crimes and charged for them. The letter to the FBI mainly asked for updates on the recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office to address concerns about facial recognition technology.
Concerns over facial recognition are not new and have come up in national headlines several times over the past couple of years.
In July, the American Civil Liberties Union tested Amazon’s face surveillance technology on members of Congress against 25,000 mugshots, which resulted in 28 false matches.
In January, Google said it “fixed” a flaw in its facial recognition algorithm that misidentified black people as gorillas by blocking the terms “gorilla,” “chimp,” “chimpanzee,” and “monkey.”
And in February, a study by Joy Buolamwini at MIT showed that many major facial recognition technologies have issues accurately identifying the genders of darker skinned women.
Each letter requests that the agencies respond by the end of September.