back to article In your face! US Senate mulls bipartisan federal law on police facial recognition use

A bipartisan bill making its way through the US Senate asks that federal law enforcement get a court order before any use of facial recognition tech. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mike Lee (R-UT) reached across the aisle to pen the Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act. The bill (PDF) would subject facial recognition …

  1. Chris G Silver badge


    " The bill would include a provision allowing use without a warrant in extenuating circumstances."

    Will they define extenuating circumstances, or will every cop have an extenuating circumstance issued each day with the camera?

    1. Oengus

      Re: Clarity

      Will they define extenuating circumstances

      That was my first thought. Any exception will be exploited to the max and I can already see the steady stream of appeals over the use of the technology. I suppose if it passes we will have to wait until a case reaches the supreme court to have the exception clarified.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Clarity

        It might take SCOTUS to clarify the exception, but lower courts can, and likely will, throw out evidence gathered in what the presiding judge considers a violation of the intent of the exception; and proceeds from that evidence, under the "fruit of the poison tree" doctrine.

        Historically, the US (as part of its UK-derived common-law model) has let the courts refine the scope of exceptions such as "extenuating circumstances". It's very difficult to define these things in a productive way in legislation.

        And, of course, there already exists substantial precedent regarding extenuating circumstances for other police activities that normally require warrants. It's not like this is a procedural vacuum.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be interested to see how facial recognition is deployed in a warranted fashion.

    Maybe place cameras outside the home of a wife/girlfriend/mom if their guy is wanted and on the run? Definitely preferable to the current "We're going to deploy this in Times Square or at the gates to Yankee Stadium and see if we can spot anyone with an outstanding warrant, while we surveil the rest of society."

    1. tfewster

      Re: I'd be interested to see how facial recognition is deployed in a warranted fashion.

      Yep - a wiretap is tightly targeted anyway, though it may also intercept calls for family etc.

      I guess that only loading warranted suspects photos into a city-wide system could count as targeted. And "extenuating circumstances" could be "We're in hot pursuit, so don't have enough time or details to get a warrant". As long as all non-matches are deleted immediately - but what chance of that happening?

      Covering my face to avoid the cameras ------------------------------------------->

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: I'd be interested to see how facial recognition is deployed in a warranted fashion.

      There's no link to the full text of the bill, but the one page summary says it's about conducting "targeted ongoing surveillance of an individual".

      It does nothing to stop the feds from Hoovering up the faces of everyone who walks down the street.

  3. Dinanziame Silver badge

    The Senators have not yet said when the bill could be voted on by committee.

    Anyway, what chances are there that Mitch "grim reaper" McConnell will allow a vote?

  4. Sven Coenye

    They want to issue a FaRTWA?!

    <checks calendar>Nope, not April yet...

    Mine's the one with the Riker/Picard double facepalm picture in the pocket...

  5. Drew Scriver Silver badge

    The bill seems to be limited to "federal law enforcement". I wonder where "homeland security" fits into this.

    On a related note, Amazon has been partnering with local police departments in conjunction with their Ring doorbell spyware. No facial recognition yet, but Amazon apparently did file a patent for it.

    Ring makes CCTV in the UK seem almost innocuous. Imagine what Ring-cameras can capture in densely populated neighborhoods - all uploaded to the Great Amazon Cloud.

    I'm glad we were able to move to a wooded rural area where we can't even see the neighbors.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      The neighbors

      -- I'm glad we were able to move to a wooded rural area where we can't even see the neighbors. --

      You might need to be on watch for any neighbors that are coked-up wild boars.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The FAcial Recognition Technology WARrant Act...

    FART WAR !!!

  7. overunder Silver badge

    Always subtractive.

    "...while also protecting fundamental Fourth Amendment privacy rights."

    Notice how those rights are never expanded, only diminished? Not having this happen at all only preserves what rights you currently have, but every change only destroys them.

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