Coalition Letter to Congress: Oppose Bans on Facial Recognition Technology

September 26, 2019

WASHINGTON—Today a coalition of thirty-nine organizations and individuals from prominent research organizations, trade associations, law enforcement groups, and technology companies, sent an open letter to Congress opposing bans on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology. Instead, the letter—whose signers include the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy—advocates for appropriate safeguards so that law enforcement can use facial recognition technology safely, accurately, and effectively.

“Facial recognition technology performs significantly better than people tasked with the same responsibilities,” said ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro. “Bans on facial recognition technology put improvements in community safety in a standstill, blocking advancements that would improve both public security and law enforcement oversight.” 

“Law enforcement leaders have repeatedly emphasized the incredible volume of data that they often must sort through manually in the absence of facial recognition technologies, taking precious time and resources away from their ability to advance public safety,” said James Burch, President of the National Police Foundation. “Outright bans of law enforcement’s use of these and other technologies are short-sighted and allow us to bypass the hard work of developing a constructive solution without becoming an obstacle to law enforcement’s ability to protect the public from legitimate threats to safety and security.”

The letter recommends lawmakers reject bans and instead focus on expanding testing and performance standards, developing best practices and guidance for law enforcement, and additional training for different uses of the technology.

The text of the letter is available here and included below.

September 26, 2019

Dear Member of Congress,

Facial recognition technology is one of many technologies that law enforcement can use to help keep communities safe. Facial recognition systems have improved rapidly over the past few years, and the best systems perform significantly better than humans.[1] Today facial recognition technology is being used to help identify individuals involved in crimes, find missing children, and combat sex trafficking. As the technology continues to improve, there will be even more opportunities in the future to use the technology as an investigative tool to solve crimes; as a security countermeasure against threats in airports, schools, and other public venues; and as a means to securely identify individuals at ports of entry. Indeed, travelers are already responding positively to biometric entry/exit programs that allow them to pass swiftly and securely through airports.[2]

While polls consistently show that Americans trust law enforcement to use facial recognition technology responsibly, some groups have called for lawmakers to enact bans on facial recognition technology.[3] While we agree that it is important to have effective oversight and accountability of these tools to uphold and protect civil liberties, we disagree that a ban is the best option to move forward. Bans would keep this important tool out of the hands of law enforcement officers, making it harder for them to do their jobs efficiently, stay safe, and protect our communities.

We are writing to encourage you to consider many of the viable alternatives to bans so that law enforcement can use facial recognition technology safely, accurately, and effectively. These alternatives may include expanding testing and performance standards, the development of best practices and guidance for law enforcement, and additional training for different uses of the technology.

There are many individuals from law enforcement, industry, academia, and civil society who stand ready to work with lawmakers to craft appropriate safeguards for this technology. We encourage you to continue to work with these experts to find solutions and compromises that will allow law enforcement agencies to adopt and test this important technology with appropriate oversight.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Organizations
Acuant, Inc.
Arm Inc.
Cognitec
Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
Consumer Technology Association
Electronic Security Association
HID Global
iBeta QA
Identification Technology Association (IdTA)
ID Technology Partners, Inc.
IJIS Institute
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Innovatrics s.r.o.
International Biometrics + Identity Association
Iris ID Systems Inc
JENETRIC
National Police Foundation
National Troopers Coalition
NEC Corporation of America
NetChoice
Rank One Computing Corporation
Security Industry Association (SIA)
TechNet
Thales USA
Vision-Box

Individuals
Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only
Maria Cardiellos, IJIS Institute
Daniel Castro, Center for Data Innovation
Warren Champ, IBIA Member
Paulo Da Silva, Cognitec Systems Pty Ltd
Dongpyo Hong, Global PD 
Roger Kelesoglu, IBIA member 
Joshua Kolchins, Vision Box Systems, Inc
Tovah LaDier, IBIA
James Lewis, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Doug Maccaferri, Cognitec Systems Corporation
John Mears, IBIA
Leonard Pratt, Qualcomm Technologies Inc
Ivan Quinn, Secure Planet 
Diane Ragans, IJIS Institute 
Cristian Tamas, TypingDNA