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Civil rights organizations call for ban on corporate use of facial recognition

Civil rights organizations call for ban on corporate use of facial recognition
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A coalition of civil and human rights organizations on Wednesday called for officials on all levels of government to take action toward banning the private and corporate use of facial recognition technology. 

More than 20 organizations signed the open letter urging a ban similar to one that went into effect in Portland, Ore., at the start of this year. The Portland ordinance bans private entities from using facial recognition technology in places of public accommodation.

“We believe this ordinance should be used as a template for more city, state, and federal legislation that bans private and corporate use of facial recognition surveillance,” the organizations wrote. 

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“In a world where private companies are already collecting our data, analyzing it, and using it to manipulate us to make a profit, we can’t afford to naively believe that private entities can be trusted with our biometric information,” the letter continues.

Advocates have pushed for bans on facial recognition technology by law enforcement, but Caitlin Seeley George, a spokesperson for Fight for the Future, said this is the first effort of its kind aimed specifically at banning corporate use of facial recognition. 

“There is zero reason to believe that corporations can use this technology responsibly, especially at a time when these companies are already collecting our data and using it to manipulate us for profit,” George said in a statement. “This technology is inherently discriminatory and dangerous, no amount of regulation can address that. In order to protect people in workplaces, stores, restaurants, hospitals, transit and beyond, we must ban it.”

Fight for the Future is one of the groups that signed the letter. 

The letter cites reports of facial recognition being used by various companies, including tech giants Apple and Amazon. 

The organizations also wrote that the use of biometric surveillance technology at retail stores, events or restaurants will “exacerbate existing discrimination,” noting that facial recognition is “notoriously bad at correctly identifying Black and brown faces.” 

“Overall this feeds a system of mass criminalization, where Black and brown people are treated as guilty everywhere they go,” they wrote. 

The groups are urging action on bans by local, state and federal leaders.