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ACLU, civil rights groups urge Biden to halt use of facial recognition technology

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights groups are urging President Biden to halt the use of facial recognition technology by the federal government over dangers the technology poses that the groups said disproportionately impact people of color and other marginalized groups. 

The coalition of more than 40 organizations sent a letter to Biden Tuesday, calling on him to take executive action to place a moratorium on all federal government use of facial recognition technology, as well as prevent state and local governments from using federal funds to buy access to such technology. 

“Facial recognition technology is a threat to civil rights and civil liberties when it works, and when it doesn’t,” Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, said in a statement. “It disproportionately misidentifies people of color, women, trans people, and other marginalized groups, but its ability to track our movements across space and time would be dangerous even if it worked perfectly.”

In the letter, the organizations cited multiple cases when Black men have been arrested and incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit after being falsely identified by facial recognition technology. 

“In keeping with President Biden’s commitment to racial equity, he must immediately take this important first step,” Ruane said. 

Moreover, the organizations wrote that facial recognition technology is “extraordinarily dangerous to core freedoms even when it works exactly as advertised.” 

“If the government can track everyone who goes to a place of worship, attends a political rally, or seeks healthcare for reproductive health or substance use, we lose our freedom to speak our minds, freely criticize the government, pray to the god we want, and access healthcare in private,” the organizations wrote. 

A spokesperson for the White House was not immediately available for comment.

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