[nexa] Washington state passes landmark facial recognition bill, reining in government use of AI – GeekWire

Alberto Cammozzo ac+nexa at zeromx.net
Thu Mar 26 10:41:42 CET 2020


The Washington state legislature passed a bill establishing new
guardrails on government use of facial recognition software.

The bill cleared both chambers of the state legislature Thursday, hours
before the session ended, positioning Washington as one of the first
states in the nation to regulate facial recognition, a key component in
the larger legal debate over artificial intelligence. The bill now
awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

The legislation requires public agencies to regularly report on their
use of facial recognition technology and test the software for fairness
and accuracy. Law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant before
using facial recognition technology in investigations unless there is an
emergency. The bill also establishes a task force to study the use of
facial recognition technology by government agencies.

Under the bill, public entities using facial recognition software to
make decisions that produce “legal effects” must ensure a human reviews
the results. That category includes decisions that could affect a
person’s job, financial services, housing, insurance, and education.

“This is historic,” said state Sen. Joe Nguyen, the sponsor of the bill
who also works for Microsoft. “I don’t know of any other jurisdiction,
for sure in the United States, maybe in the world, where it requires the
company to expose their underlying data … in a way that we can test it
for accuracy.”

Washington is home to two of the largest companies in the nation
developing facial recognition software: Amazon and Microsoft. Leaders at
both companies have called on lawmakers to create new rules for facial
recognition technology, which is largely unregulated.

Last September, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called facial recognition “a
perfect example of where regulation is needed.” Microsoft President Brad
Smith has repeatedly warned of the consequences of allowing the
technology to continue to be deployed without guardrails. But Smith said
in January that the temporary moratoriums on the technology that some
governments are considering would be like using a meat cleaver instead
of a scalpel.

Facial recognition has become a lightning rod, with civil rights groups
and researchers claiming it can amplify human biases. Studies of
Amazon’s Rekognition software, conducted by the ACLU and MIT, showed the
technology misidentifies women and people of color more frequently than
it does white men. Amazon says the methodology of those studies was
flawed, and recommends a high confidence threshold for any law
enforcement agency using the software.


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