[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights [advocacy websites] and 50 other interest groups, sent a letter [text] on Tuesday urging the US Department of Justice [official website] to investigate the increasing use of facial recognition technology. This letter is a part of the advocacy groups’ greater concern that certain police use of technology may violate civilian rights, and that those violations are disproportionately felt by minority communities. According to ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani, half of American adults are within a government facial recognition database, and those databases are used with near impunity by law enforcement.
The privacy of individuals [JURIST op-ed], and the use of technology by law enforcement, are important and evolving topics in the 21st century. Swiss voters in September voted to approve [JURIST report] a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence service broad powers to spy on “terrorist” suspects and cyber criminals, as well as the ability to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. In August a UN rights groups criticized [JURIST report] the US Investigatory Powers Bill, stating it could threaten freedom of expression and association. In December China passed a new anti-terrorism law [JURIST report] that requires technology companies to provide information to the government obtained from their products and make information systems “secure and controllable.” And last October the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied [JURIST report] a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union to halt the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA. The court ruled that Congress intended for the agency to continue its data collection over the transition period, and the new legislation was to take effect November 29.