Proposed Facial Recognition Law Misguided, Says Leading Tech Policy Think Tank

March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—In response to legislation proposed today by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, released a statement from ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro:

This legislation is too much, too soon. Facial recognition is a rapidly evolving technology that offers numerous potential benefits, including faster and more secure check-in, personalized services, and more security. But these applications are still in their infancy, and this legislation would limit many potential commercial applications.

It is important that Congress does not tip the scales against any particular technology. For example, if Congress wants to create a notice standard, it should do so for all uses of cameras, not just those involving facial recognition.

This legislation may even reduce consumer privacy. Many facial recognition applications increase consumer privacy over their alternatives. For example, a video surveillance system that stores images may be more privacy-invasive than a facial recognition system that only tracks certain individuals.

It is always important for Congress to consider the impact of new technologies and ensure there are proper guardrails for society, but this legislation would severely curtail beneficial uses of the technology. Instead of rushing to pass new laws, Congress should take a deliberative approach, hold additional hearings, and study this issue further. And once Congress is ready to pass legislation on this issue, it should preempt states, as one set of national rules will be much better than a patchwork of state laws.