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February 9, 2022

Pressley, Jayapal, Markey, Merkley Urge Federal Agencies to End Use of Clearview AI Facial Recognition Technology

Text of Letters (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Interior (DOI), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to end their use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology. In their letters, the lawmakers voiced serious concerns about the technology’s ability to eliminate public anonymity and highlighted the unique threats it poses to Black communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities.

“Facial recognition tools pose a serious threat to the public’s civil liberties and privacy rights, and Clearview AI’s product is particularly dangerous,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to immediately stop the Department’s use of facial recognition technology, including Clearview AI’s tools.”

In August 2021, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report identifying federal entities that have used facial recognition tools, including Clearview AI’s technology. Clearview AI’s tools reportedly allow users to capture and upload photos of strangers, analyze the photographed individual’s biometric information, and provide users with existing images and personal information of the photographed individuals found online. These and other facial recognition technologies pose unique threats to members of vulnerable communities, who are disproportionately likely to be misidentified and are systematically subjected to over-policing and increased surveillance.

“Facial recognition technology like Clearview’s poses unique threats to marginalized communities in ways that extend beyond the tools’ inaccuracy issues,” continued the lawmakers. “Communities of color are systematically subjected to over-policing, and the proliferation of biometric surveillance tools is, therefore, likely to disproportionately infringe upon the privacy of individuals in Black, Brown, and immigrant communities.”

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. These letters serve as her latest effort to protect vulnerable communities from invasive, unregulated, and inaccurate facial recognition technologies.

Last week, Rep. Pressley applauded the House’s passage of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act, which included several of her amendments to guard against the discriminatory use of artificial intelligence systems and biometric identification technology in historically marginalized communities.

In June of 2020, Rep. Pressley and her colleagues introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to stop federal entities’ use of facial recognition tools and effectively strip federal support for state and local law enforcement entities that use biometric technology. They reintroduced the bill in June 2021.

In July 2019, she announced legislation that would prohibit the use of biometric recognition technology in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), protecting tenants from biased surveillance technology. The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act was again introduced in 2021.

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.