Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden back national facial recognition ban bill


Lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden have signed on as co-sponsors of a bill that would ban facial recognition.

James Martin/CNET

If you’re wondering whether your representatives in Congress support a federal ban on facial recognition, you can check out a score sheet put together by a coalition of privacy advocates. 

On Wednesday, the Ban Facial Recognition group launched its Congressional Scoreboard for keeping track of lawmakers who have and haven’t endorsed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act. 

The bill was introduced in June by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal and Sens. Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley. It calls for a complete ban on facial recognition use by law enforcement until Congress passes legislation to lift the moratorium. The US has seen a growing call from privacy and other groups to ban facial recognition across its cities, as well as concern about human rights issues from companies who provide the technology. 

On Wednesday, senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden joined the bill as co-sponsors, along with 8 other lawmakers. 

“I’m proud to be fighting for a future that is free of invasive and racist surveillance tools, and I thank my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives as well as the groups across the country who have joined the effort to stop government use of biometric technologies,” Sen. Markey said in a statement.

Facial recognition concerns stem from the technology’s track record of racial bias, with researchers finding that it frequently misidentifies people of color, and women. That’s led to cases where Black men were wrongfully arrested because of the technology, prompting a rising call to stop police from using facial recognition.  

Though companies like Amazon and Microsoft have called for national regulations on facial recognition, they haven’t backed this bill.

Ban Facial Recognition is a coalition of 42 organizations that are against the technology, including Fight for the Future, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Color of Change, Athena and Demand Progress. 

So far, these 15 lawmakers are supporting the legislation: 

  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) 
  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan)
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota)
  • Rep. Yvette Clark (D-New York) 
  • Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois)
  • Rep. Jesús García (D-Illinois) 
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts)
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington)
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
  • Rep. Eleanor Norton (D-Washington, DC)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) 
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

The scorecard includes a prompt beneath each lawmaker’s listing that encourages visitors to tweet at their local legislator to urge support of the bill. 

“Lawmakers can’t claim to care about civil liberties, freedom, democracy, racial justice or human rights if they aren’t supporting this common sense legislation to stop the use of biased and invasive surveillance technology that’s as dangerous as nuclear or biological weapons,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. 

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