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Senators seek limits on some facial-recognition use by police, energizing surveillance technology debate

The Washington Post recently published an article detailing a recent bill introduced by Congress to combat the government purchase of data from surveillance technologies without a warrant.

The “Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale” Act, which has received bipartisan support, prohibits law enforcement agencies and the government from purchasing private databases without a warrant and altogether bans the purchase of “illegitimately obtained” data, as can be found in Clearview AI. Widely used by police departments, Clearview scours social media platforms for personal photos to add to its database.

Clearview has been highly accused by the companies from which they gather data, like Facebook, Google and Twitter, for violating their policies by “scraping” their platforms for data, and civil liberties and privacy groups see the technology as a threat to civil rights. When the government is granted access to systems like Clearview without a warrant, it allows them to gather evidence for investigations with the ease of online marketers. Moreover, the use of this technology by law enforcement agencies and governments has led to issues such as wrongful arrests, as was the case for Robert Williams, Nijeer Parks, and Michael Oliver, all of whom were falsely accused of crimes by facial recognition software.

The bill proposed by Congress, and a similar version introduced by the House, marks an active attempt by senators to regulate surveillance technology, one of many legislative efforts including one banning the sale of American personal data to “unfriendly” foreign parties and another restricting the gathering and sharing of this data by American companies.

The legislation represents a step in the right direction against excessive use of surveillance technology with increasingly invasive potential.

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