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Cybersecurity & Standards, Equity in Civic Technology, Free Expression, Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

Recognizing the Threats: Congress Must Impose a Moratorium on Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Tech

The House has largely been locked in partisan conflict since the January 6 insurrection, but when it comes to concerns about law enforcement use of facial recognition, it can be difficult to tell the difference between Republican and Democratic representatives. In July, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on this subject, and members of both parties all appeared to agree that law enforcement use of facial recognition technology poses serious threats to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has joined with allies in calling for Congress to enact a moratorium on the use of facial recognition for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes. CDT has long urged that this technology poses severe risks to civil liberties and civil rights, and that congressional oversight and legislation are needed to address these risks. But what, if anything, will Congress actually do? 

A bill already introduced in Congress — the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act — would impose a moratorium on federal government use of facial recognition technology until Congress can enact a comprehensive set of rules to mitigate the threats to human rights. This proposed legislation — which would cover all government use of biometric surveillance tools — provides a very helpful framework for addressing the risks from law enforcement and immigration enforcement use of facial recognition.

The full issue brief is available here.