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Politics & Government

Sen. Coons wants to regulate use of facial recognition tech

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s junior US Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) is cosponsoring legislation to regulate the use of facial recognition technology. 

The other cosponsor on the bipartisan measure is Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). It would require federal law enforcement to obtain a court order before using facial recognition technology to conduct targeted ongoing public surveillance. 

The bill also requires the warrant be renewed after 30 days. It does allow law enforcement to use the technology for surveillance without a court order in exigent circumstances. 

Coons says facial recognition is a valuable tool for law enforcement, but he adds there are civil liberty concerns surrounding ongoing surveillance of citizens by their government. 

“We’re trying to strike a balance with this bill between public safety and protecting civil liberties and civil rights,” he said.

Coons serves on the Foreign Relations committee. He says he wants the US to take the lead on reigning its use of facial recognition tech.

“I’ve been genuinely concerned about the ways in which China is applying facial recognition technology nationwide through a network of hundreds of millions of cameras to continuously surveil and arguably oppress elements of their society,” said Coons. 

The bill does not address state level law enforcement’s use of the technology. Delaware State Police use facial recognition “in earnest” to help solve crimes caught on camera like shoplifting, and Delaware’s Department of Motor Vehicles uses the technology on its driver’s license database to assist with FBI investigations.

Coons says these uses of facial recognition tech should also be publicly debated. He says his bill is a first step.

Some state and local jurisdictions across the country have begun moratoria on the use of facial recognition tech.

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