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February 4, 2022

House Passes COMPETES Act with Key Pressley Amendments

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) applauded the House’s passage of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act, which includes several of her amendments to guard against the discriminatory use of artificial intelligence systems and biometric identification technology in historically marginalized communities.

“Biometric identification technology, including facial recognition, is a fundamentally flawed and discriminatory technology that has consistently targeted our most marginalized, over-policed, and over-surveilled communities—including Black, brown, low-income, and religious minorities—and exacerbated the criminalization they already face,” said Rep. Pressley. “I’m glad we were able to secure passage of these important amendments, which will bring much-needed transparency on the federal government’s use of this technology and help us address its harmful and disparate impact on our most vulnerable.”

The amendments introduced by Congresswoman Pressley that were included in the America COMPETES Act would:

    Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to Congress regarding the impact of biometric identification systems on historically marginalized populations, including low-income communities and minority racial, religious, and ethnic groups. Full text of the amendment is available here. Direct the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create an office to study bias in the use of artificial intelligence systems and publish guidance to reduce disparate impacts on historically marginalized communities. The amendment text is available here.

The COMPETES Act also included an amendment co-led by Rep. Pressley and Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11) to allow dual intent for STEM doctoral students and make it easier for these students to stay in the United States after they complete their studies.

Rep. Pressley has consistently spoken out against government use of biometric identification technology, which has exacerbated the criminalization and over-surveillance that Black and brown communities face.

In July 2021, Congresswoman Pressley and Reps. Yvette Clarke (NY-09), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) re-introduced the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2021, their bill to prohibit the usage of facial and biometric recognition in most federally funded public housing and require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to submit a report to Congress about how this emerging technology interplays within the public housing sector and its tenants.

In June 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), reintroduced bicameral legislation to stop government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools.

In Congress, Rep. Pressley represents the cities of Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge, which are among the first cities on the east coast to outlaw the use of the technology, and has criticized its use by local governments in Massachusetts.