The bill would also create a task force to examine how to regulate biometric technology in the future, with seats reserved for the state police and the New York City Police Department, among other agencies.
A new bill in the New York State Senate would prevent police from using facial recognition technology and some other kinds of biometric surveillance while creating a task force to research future use of the technology.
The bill, introduced Monday by State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, would still allow police and other law enforcement officials to use DNA and fingerprints to identify people and link them to potential crimes.
But Hoylman, who chairs the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, said newer biometric technology such as facial recognition “presents a chilling threat to our privacy and civil liberties.”
“Facial recognition technology threatens to end every New Yorker’s ability to walk down the street anonymously,” he said in a statement.
Hoylman cited research showing that facial recognition algorithms struggle to recognize women, people of color, young people and transgender or gender nonconforming people.
Lawyers at The Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union praised the proposal, saying that the technology is inaccurate and easily abused.
“This legislation provides critical protections for New Yorkers against harmful and discriminatory technologies that do little more than subject communities of color to wrongful targeting, interrogation, detention and conviction,” NYCLU lead policy counsel Michael Sisitzky said in a statement.
The bill would also create a task force to examine how to regulate biometric technology in the future, with seats reserved for state police and the New York City Police Department, among other agencies.
Hoylman said he was specifically concerned by the NYPD’s use of facial recognition and an app created by Clearview AI, which searches internet images to help law enforcement identify people.
The bill was introduced about a week after the New York Times published a major report raising concerns about Clearview called “The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It.”
The article questioned whether the app’s capabilities have been appropriately audited. A Clearview spokeswoman said Monday that the company is not releasing the names of people on an “independent panel of experts” that has evaluated the app, according to the Clearview website.
Tor Ekeland, outside counsel for Clearview, said the company welcomes more conversation on the responsible use of facial recognition technology, although he had some concerns about the broad wording of Hoylman’s bill.
The Clearview app is only available to law enforcement users, not the general public. Ekeland, whose firm, Tor Ekeland Law PLLC, is based in Brooklyn, said the company wants to keep its technology out of the hands of bad actors.
An NYPD spokeswoman said in a statement that it would be negligent if the department didn’t use facial recognition technology.
“The NYPD identifies suspects by comparing a still image from a surveillance video to a pool of lawfully possessed arrest photos and this technology helps bring justice to victims,” the statement said. “A facial recognition match is solely a lead — no one has ever been arrested solely on the basis of a computer match, no matter how compelling.”
She added that the department has not yet reviewed the specific language of the bill.