Merkley, Sanders Introduce Legislation to Put Strict Limits on Corporate Use of Facial Recognition | U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today continued his leadership at the intersection of privacy rights, racial justice, and emerging technologies by introducing the National Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2020, groundbreaking legislation that would prohibit private companies from collecting biometric data—including eye scans, voiceprints, faceprints, and fingerprints—without consumers and employees’ consent, or profiting off this data. He was joined in introducing the legislation by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The introduction comes amid growing concerns over the prevalence of biometric data collection among private companies, including the use of facial recognition technology, and especially the implications of that use on the safety of communities of color. A landmark study released in December 2019 reported that Asian and Black individuals were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified by facial recognition technology[1], signaling alarming consequences for the use of the technology to surveil stores[2].

“We can’t let companies scoop up or profit from people’s faces and fingerprints without their consent,” said Merkley. “We have to fight against a ‘big brother’ surveillance state that eradicates our privacy and our control of our own information, be it a threat from the government or from private companies.”

“Do we really want to live under constant surveillance by unaccountable corporations? I don’t. We cannot allow Orwellian facial recognition technology to continue to violate the privacy and civil liberties of the American people,” said Sanders.

The legislation limits the ability of companies to collect, buy, sell, lease, trade, or retain individuals’ biometric information without specific written consent, and requires private companies to disclose to any inquiring individual the information the company has collected for that individual. The bill would allow individuals and State Attorneys General to bring lawsuits against companies that fail to comply.

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