Lawmakers still cannot agree on how to regulate facial recognition technology in the state after 14 months of study, as they seek to strike the right balance between the rapidly emerging technology use of Montanans with the right to constitutional privacy.
At a meeting of the Economic Interim Affairs Committee last Tuesday, state agencies, for example, the Department of Justice, proposed a draft bill that would provide significant safeguards on how technology can be used. The group’s consensus was that although members disagree on specifics, something has to be done.
“I think we can decide where we want to go from here, cross the fence, if you will, between privacy rights and the crime of investigation,” said Representative Katie Sullivan, D-Missoula, who helped draft the proposal.
The technology is essentially unregulated in Montana and at the federal level. Currently, the technology is used in the state in the Department of Labor and Industrial Unemployment Fraud Protection and in some criminal investigations by the state Department of Justice.
The proposed bill only deals with government use of face recognition technology that focuses on law enforcement. Under the proposal, state and local governments could only use technology with a warrant or court order to investigate serious crimes or a missing or endangered person – and prevent police from using a facial recognition system to establish a probable cause in a criminal investigation. . This will require agencies who wish to use the technology to inform the Legislature of their intent and to maintain schedules to permanently delete data after the technology is used by it.
The bill does not prohibit private companies like Clearview AI, which operates facial recognition databases, from operating in Montana. Clearview.AI, which scrapes people’s biometric data from public databases such as newspapers and social media sites, is banned in countries such as Australia and Canada.
EJ Redding, lobbying for Clearview AI, told the panel that the company supports placing tabs on technology but does not want to limit law enforcement too much.
“(Facial recognition technology) is improving every day and we want to see law enforcement’s hands tied to using emerging technology at a time of high crime, more opportunities and more need for investigative tools.
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After Tuesday’s meeting, the committee will continue on two tracks, Sullivan said. One is a better version of last week’s proposed bill and the other is a full ban on state and local governments using technology.
“I was surprised by the enthusiasm of the moratorium. I don’t oppose the ban.
Representative Mark Nolan, R-Bigfork, took a very hostile stance on the use of technology at the June 15 meeting.
“For that safety, are we willing to give up our independence for the State of Montana?” R-Bigfork representative Mark Noland asked. “I want the state of Montana to be different from the rest of the state. We don’t need it.”
Nolan tended to cancel the bill proposal and start over.
“I have no problem with creating something that says in Montana; we don’t tolerate … face recognition,” he said.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ken Bogner, R-Miles City, along with Sullivan helped draft the bill, emphasizing that the committee could present something at the next legislative session.
“There is a slippery slope to the use of facial recognition technology. … I want to go into this session where we pass the sideboards for some form of facial recognition technology,” he said. “But we all have to come up with something that is acceptable or as close as we can hope to support the remaining legislators. So let’s say we have those sideboards. Representative. Nolan wants that.
Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, acknowledged that there must be more stringent measures than the Bill proposed, but reiterated Bogner’s point that something had to be done.
“I think it’s important that we come up with the product here. As a legislative body, in the interim, I think it’s our responsibility to bring the original product that we can present to the legislature,” he said. And I agree with the chair that we need a starting point.
“The use of face recognition by governmental entities is controversial … To protect against government misuse of face recognition technology, we need legislative guidelines,” he said.
Corbley said those guidelines should focus on the warrant process rather than specific technologies.
“… Even if innovation moves faster than the law can, the process remains unchanged,” he said.
The next step of the committee is to ask for comment on the bill proposal from state agencies currently using technology. The committee has until September to vote on the bill’s proposal.
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