The state of Virginia recently enacted a law banning local law enforcement and campus police departments from using facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology is defined as an “electronic system for enrolling, capturing, extracting, comparing, and matching an individual’s geometric facial data to identify individuals in photos, videos, or real time.” The law states that no local law enforcement agency shall purchase or deploy facial recognition technology unless such purchase or deployment of such technology is expressly authorized by statute. The law further states that such statute shall require that any facial recognition technology purchased or deployed by the local law-enforcement agency be maintained under the exclusive control of such local law-enforcement agency and that any data contained by such facial recognition technology be kept confidential, not be disseminated or resold, and be accessible only by a search warrant.

The law does not apply to commercial use at airports. Some cities, including San Francisco, have banned facial recognition technology by law enforcement. According to the National Council of State Legislators, California, New Hampshire, and Oregon have placed restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology in police body cameras. Other states (Texas and Florida) as well as the FBI continue to use facial recognition technology. The Congressional Research Service issued a report last year on federal law enforcement agencies’ use of facial recognition technology, which also included information on the privacy and security of such technology and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) work in this area. We will be watching as other states and municipalities join the debate on this technology.

It’s called This is how we lost control of our faces in the February 5, 2021 edition of MIT Technology Review, written by Karen Hao.

The article outlines a study recently published by Deborah Raji and Genevieve Fried titled About Face: A Survey of Facial Recognition Evaluation, which includes a survey of over 100 face datasets compiled “between 1976 to 2019 of 145 million images of over 17 million subjects….” It reportedly is the largest study of facial recognition technology ever conducted.

Hao posits that the study “shows just how much this enterprise has eroded our privacy. It hasn’t just fueled an increasingly powerful tool of surveillance. The latest generation of deep-learning-based facial recognition has completely disrupted our norms of consent.”

There are way too many fascinating things about Hao’s synopsis of the study and the study itself to summarize in a blog post. Both are worth reading and contemplating in determining facial recognition technology’s impact on our own privacy, as well as how we want different facets of society to respect our privacy if using facial recognition technology. The study analyzes the development and use of facial recognition technology over the past 30 years. It is relevant and insightful into how we can shape parameters around the use of facial recognition over the next 30 years and beyond.

As Raji and Fried say, “Facial recognition technologies pose complex ethical and technical challenges. Neglecting to unpack this complexity-to measure it, analyze it and then articulate it to others-is a disservice to those, including ourselves, who are most impacted by its careless deployment.”