Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests

Greg Nash

Three Democratic senators are raising concerns about government surveillance of anti-police brutality protests that have erupted across the nation following the death of George Floyd.

In a letter to departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the lawmakers pointed to reports that the agencies may be using facial recognition technology to identify individuals participating in the peaceful demonstrations.

In particular, they noted that some police departments have partnered with Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition company that has been under intense scrutiny since it was discovered to have amassed a database of more than 3 billion photos collected by scraping social media.

“The federal government’s use of technology to identify each individual at a demonstration en masse has a chilling effect on all of our protected First Amendment activities,” Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

“Identifying Americans who are peacefully demonstrating using existing facial recognition technology is particularly dangerous because this information would be of dubious accuracy and could be stolen or otherwise leaked,” they continued.

The lawmakers are asking if the departments have collected any personally identifiable information of Americans involved in the demonstrations and, if so, to cite the authority to collect it and detail how it is being handled.

They are also demanding a list of any time either agency has used facial recognition during protests since the May 25th death of Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, as well as accompanying information about any instance.

Tags Chad Wolf Cory Booker facial recognition George Floyd protests government surveillance Ron Wyden Sherrod Brown William Barr

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