Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden Introduce Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act
In a move to protect citizens from unwarranted surveillance and discrimination, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon have introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act. This legislation aims to prohibit the use of facial recognition and other biometric technologies by the government, especially those that disproportionately harm marginalized communities and pose significant privacy and civil liberties issues.
Senator Merkley highlighted the discriminatory outcomes of facial recognition technology, which have resulted in innocent people being wrongfully jailed. He stated that enacting a federal moratorium on this technology is critical to ensure communities are protected from inappropriate surveillance. Senator Wyden added that facial recognition systems run a proven risk of costing Americans their fundamental rights, without making us safer. This legislation would help to balance the scales of justice by preventing an overzealous government from overreaching with a technology that’s proven to land hardest on people of color.
Reports have shown that hundreds of local, state, and federal agencies, including law enforcement, have expanded their use of facial recognition technologies. Meanwhile, multiple Black men have been wrongfully arrested based on a false facial recognition match, including a recent case in Maryland. Research also reveals that nearly half of U.S. adults’ faces exist in facial recognition databases and that the faces of Black and Asian individuals are up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white male faces.
The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would place a prohibition on the use of facial recognition technology and other biometric technologies by federal entities. It would also condition federal grant funding to state and local entities, including law enforcement, on those entities enacting their own moratoria on the use of facial recognition and biometric technology. The legislation would also prohibit the use of federal dollars for biometric surveillance systems and provide a private right of action for individuals whose biometric data is used in violation of the Act.
Senators Merkley and Wyden have both previously supported this critical piece of legislation. The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2023 is led by Senators Edward J. Markey and Merkley, and is cosponsored by Senators Wyden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Pramila Jayapal.