A group of tech advocacy, human rights, and privacy groups have launched a campaign that seeks to have New York City and New York state ban the use of facial recognition technology by the government.
The campaign, called “Ban the Scan,” is urging people to write comments to the New York Police Department arguing against the use of facial recognition technology and petition the New York City council to introduce a bill banning the technology.
Later this year, the campaign also plans on expanding by building a tool that will geolocate facial recognition devices in New York. That tool is expected to launch in May, the groups said in a statement.
“Ban the Scan” is being spearheaded by Amnesty International, AI for the People, the Surveillance Technologies Oversight Project (STOP), the Immigrant Defense Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), and other groups.
The campaign is starting in New York but will “expand its focus on the use of facial recognition in other parts of the world.”
Facial recognition technology has been shown to have a racial bias and there have long been calls for a ban on the technology’s use by the government.
Last summer, the New York Police Department (NYPD) used facial recognition technology as part of an investigation into a Black Lives Matter activist. Law enforcement across the country also used the technology amid the protests against police brutality and racism, prompting condemnation from members of Congress.
“Facial recognition risks being weaponized by law enforcement against marginalized communities around the world. From New Delhi to New York, this invasive technology turns our identities against us and undermines human rights,” Matt Mahmoudi, an AI and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “New Yorkers should be able to go out about their daily lives without being tracked by facial recognition. Other major cities across the U.S. have already banned facial recognition, and New York must do the same.”
At the beginning of this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a law that would put a two-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in schools.
However, as Albert Fox Chan, the executive director of STOP, wrote in an op-ed earlier this week, “it’s time to go further” in New York.
“Despite the new ban on school surveillance, we still need to do more. Sadly, the children whose privacy is protected in the classroom are still subject to endless facial recognition scanning as soon as they walk out the schoolhouse door,” Cahn wrote in an op-ed for the Gotham Gazette with Caroline Magee. “This is because police officers remain free to use facial recognition technology nearly anywhere else in the state, even to track children. And here in New York City, we’re tracking the public more than ever.”
In a statement about “Ban the Scan,” Cahn said facial recognition technology was “biased, broken, and antithetical to democracy.”
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