Facial Recognition Could Be Banned for Government Use in Minnesota

December 6, 2021

Legislators and others expressed concerns about government use of facial recognition technology during a recent meeting of the Legislative Commission on Data Practices.

The Legislative Commission on Data Practices met on Nov. 30 and discussed a bill prohibiting government use of facial recognition technology. No action was taken.

The bill, HF 1196, is authored by Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis). She said there are concerns about:

  • The use of facial recognition for general surveillance purposes.
  • Violations of civil liberties.
  • The technology not adequately and correctly identifying women and people of color.

Testimony

Testifiers in support of prohibiting facial recognition technology included representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Minnesota Coalition on Open Government Information, and Restore the Fourth. These organizations support the bill because of their concerns with privacy of individuals and false positives of people.

Representatives from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office expressed concerns with the bill, including its proposal to prohibit the use of other entity’s facial recognition because of technology like Spotlight, which is used with sex trafficking victims. They also discussed how facial recognition technology is currently used by the county. Hennepin County has used it to develop leads, but not to do surveillance.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and Minnesota Sheriffs Association also expressed concerns with the bill.

All testifiers said they appreciated the Legislature engaging in conversation about this emerging technology.

Legislator comments

Legislators made comments on a variety of topics, including concerns about any use of facial recognition technology, be it public or private. They also said they have a desire to better understand the current and possible future uses of this technology. Legislators said they are committed to working with law enforcement as the bill progresses.

State and city bans on facial recognition technology

Some states have recently adopted prohibitions on facial recognition technology. Some cities across the country have also adopted ordinances banning the use of facial recognition technology. In Minnesota, Minneapolis has adopted such an ordinance.

The League will continue to monitor this issue as it may further be discussed by the Legislature.

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