Virginia unanimously passed a bill to ban law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition technology, effective July 1, 2021. Let’s break down why this is so important – and why the technology is so dangerous in the first place.
Facial recognition technology has a really bad pattern of not working on Black faces. If police are looking for someone, the database often brings up the wrong person – to the point that it’s led to numerous Black people being arrested for things they didn’t do! Even computers think all Black people look alike.
The bill’s lead sponsor, State Delegate Laschrese Aird, showed how the database especially misidentifies those with darker skin – making this a problem of not only race, but colorism. “Citizens should have … awareness of whether or not their law enforcement officers are using this type of technology,” she noted.
Because of Aird’s work, cops in Virginia can no longer use an app called Clearview AI, which pieces together images from all over the internet to mis-identify us. It uses images from anywhere – from Instagram to Youtube to even Venmo!
Even new technology can’t avoid our society’s inherent anti-Blackness, and we must always be skeptical of any system that gives authorities more opportunities to target us. This seems like a victory, but we can’t let our guard down. Plenty of other states are still using the technology!