Colorado lawmakers are seeking to restrict the use of facial recognition technology in the state’s government, law enforcement and schools with the introduction of a new bill.
If passed, Senate Bill 113 would establish several limitations and regulations for the use of artificial intelligence facial recognition services by government agencies and law enforcement agencies in the state. The bill would also completely prohibit the use of facial recognition technology in public and charter schools until 2025.
Bill sponsor Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, said the state needs to slow down and reevaluate its use of facial recognition technology due to disproportionate identification issues for people of color.
“That, to me, is a signal that we need to use caution and proceed carefully here,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot of great things that this technology enables, but there’s also some significant problems if you get false positives or false negatives. The error rates for the current technology is very high for people of color.”
Multiple studies have found a racial bias in facial recognition technology. For dark-skinned women, the technology had an error rate of 34.7%, compared to 0.8% for fair-skinned men, according to a 2018 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Similarly, a federal study in 2019 found that Asian and African American people were up to 100 times more likely than white men to be misidentified by facial recognition technology.
Because of these issues, cities such as San Francisco, Boston and Portland have banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and local agencies. The proposed Colorado bill would not ban the technology, but it would establish strict limitations.
Under the bill, government agencies using facial recognition technology would have to notify a reporting authority, specify why the technology is being used, produce an accountability report, test the equipment and subject any decisions that result from the technology to human review.
Law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from using facial recognition technology to establish probable cause, identify an individual from a police sketch or create a record depicting an individual’s actions protected by the First Amendment. Law enforcement agencies would also need special permission to use facial recognition to conduct surveillance, tracking or real-time identification.
“There’s no prohibition here, but let’s stop and take a good look at this technology before it has possible downsides,” Hansen said. “Let’s look carefully at how it’s being used. Let’s have human review of any results. And let’s think carefully about how we’re going to use it in a public setting.”
The bill would also create a task force responsible for studying issues related to the use of artificial intelligence, operating until September 2032.
The task force’s findings would be used to help inform the use of facial recognition technology in schools after the bill’s ban ends in 2025, Hansen said.
While it is unclear whether any Colorado schools currently use facial recognition technology, nationally, public schools have used the technology for discipline, like identifying students seen skipping class or breaking rules in security footage.
Hansen said the bill has received little opposition from legislators so far. However, the Colorado Information Sharing Consortium — a data privacy and data sharing government entity comprised of 86 Colorado law enforcement agencies — said it “strongly opposes” the bill.
“(The bill) would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition technology to help identify persons who commit major crimes like those in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6,” said David Shipley, executive director of the consortium. “It would also essentially prohibit use of facial and voice recognition technology in jails to help interrupt planning of future crimes or to help manage the inmate population.”
Shipley said the consortium is working on potential amendments to the bill to “protect civil liberties while serving and protecting the public.” Jenifer Waller, CEO of Colorado Bankers Association, said her group is also hoping to amend the bill to ensure it does not hinder the investigation of financial crimes.
Hansen said he is working with the groups and expects to make a few amendments to the bill during the committee process. Nevertheless, he is confident that the bill will make it through the legislature.
“There’s a bipartisan concern about privacy and misuse of technology,” Hansen said. “We can demonstrate that there are issues and that problems have arisen, so I feel really confident we will be able to successfully get this to the governor’s desk.”
After multiple cases of malpractice were uncovered in Colorado’s funeral industry, the House of Representatives passed a bill to allow inspections of funeral homes and crematories without getting an operator’s permission to enter the premises.
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