ACLU Comment on Alphabet CEO Backing Face Recognition Ban

News Release: 
Tuesday, January 21, 2020

BRUSSELS — Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has backed a European Union proposal imposing a five-year ban on the use of face recognition in public spaces. This follows an earlier commitment by Google to not sell a facial recognition surveillance product until the technology’s dangers are addressed.

Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, issued the following comment in response:

"Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is right to back a temporary ban on face recognition — and Washington should likewise halt law enforcement use of this technology without delay. As reports this weekend further confirmed, unethical surveillance companies will not wait for regulations before pushing their untested, error-prone, and dystopian face tracking technologies on police departments across the country and the world. We cannot sit idly by while a dangerous dragnet surveillance architecture is built in the shadows, threatening our core rights and values in a free society. It's time for lawmakers to swiftly put the brakes on law enforcement use of face recognition, before it's too late."

The New York Times last weekend revealed that police have been secretly paying an untested startup for the power to match any photo against a shadily assembled database of billions of face scans of Americans.

The ACLU last year led a coalition of over 85 racial justice, faith, and civil, human, and immigrants’ rights groups to send letters to GoogleMicrosoft, and Amazon calling on the companies to commit to not selling face surveillance technology to the government. The organization has also been leading coalition efforts across the country to stop law enforcement use of the technology due to privacy and civil liberties concerns.

This statement is here: