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US Senate Candidate Savage Urges Ban on Facial Recognition Technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday July 10, 2020

For more info: Sam Pfeifle  207-749-0298  sam@lisaformaine.org  @SamPfeifle

Today, independent Green candidate for U.S. Senate Lisa Savage released the following statement:

“Facial recognition technology should not be deployed in public, whether by the government or private organizations. In private settings, such as social media sites and in private establishments, everyone should always have the right to object to the use of facial recognition technology, and no person’s face should be stored in a facial recognition database without their express consent.

“Researchers have found that facial recognition technology has a gender and racial bias problem. In a large study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Black, Asian, and indigenous people were up to 100 times more likely to be falsely identified as white people. Black women were most likely to be misidentified. That may be a result of two things: 1) the public photos used to train computers to recognize faces include mostly images of white people and 2) engineers at tech companies are, by and large, white men who may be unknowingly designing the facial recognition systems to work best when identifying people that look like them. It’s notable that software developed in Asian countries does not have any problem identifying Asians vs. caucasians. 

“More worrisome, it recently came to light that Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a Black man, may have become the first American wrongfully arrested due to a false facial recognition match. Williams was arrested by Michigan police on his front lawn in front of his two young children for a crime he did not commit because the software got it wrong. These are mistakes we cannot risk making, and that’s why there have been calls for facial recognition restrictions at the local, state, and federal levels. 

“Next week, on July 13th, the Portland City Council will be voting on Councilor Pious Ali’s proposed ban on facial surveillance, which I strongly support. If passed, the ban would prohibit the use of facial recognition by the City of Portland or any third-party contractor. Councilor Ali’s proposal mirrors the People First Portland’s referendum that is still collecting signatures and can be signed here. Many cities have already banned the use of facial recognition including Boston, MA, after a unanimous vote by the city council last month. 

“This is enough of a problem in Maine that two lawmakers, with the support of the ACLU, are trying to reverse a 2013 law cited by police to refuse disclosure of facial recognition software usage. Maine is one of only two states that allows this level of secret surveillance. As Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon should prioritize this legislation should the legislature come back into session.

“At the federal level, Sen. Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Merkley (D-Ore.), Rep. Jayapal (WA-07) and Rep. Pressley (MA-07) have introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020. The Act would stop federal entities’ use of facial recognition tools, and effectively strip federal support for state and local law enforcement that use biometric technology. I strongly support its passage.

“If elected to the Senate, you can count on me to sponsor and champion legislation like this to protect your right to privacy and restrict use of this invasive technology that has been proven to unfairly impact or harm the BIPOC community and unfairly invades everyone’s privacy.

Find information about Lisa Savage, her policy positions, background, and how to support her people-powered campaign at www.LisaforMaine.org.

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