Baltimore City Council Addresses Concerns over Facial Recognition Technology and Surveillance

Posted on 11/16/23 | News Source: WMAR2NEWS

Facial recognition technology is one of the newer ways various companies are choosing to collect data on people, and it’s even become a tool for police to track down criminals.

It’s rare for people to discuss the other side of FRT’s, like how surveillance is being collected and stored and how it can be used negatively.

However, Wednesday, it was the topic of discussion for City Council members like Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, who is working to make changes to guidelines around surveillance usage in Baltimore City.

Surveillance footage, including facial recognition technology, is constantly being collected on each and every one of us daily and it’s why Burnett said city neighbors have a right to know when our data is being collected and how it’s being used and stored.

“At this point, there’s not a lot of transparency on how this technology is used, where it’s being used, what the impact is,” Burnett said.

Providing accountability and more transparency with how all forms of surveillance throughout the city is being used in both public and private sectors of business was the mission behind Councilman Kristerfer Burnett’s two bills discussed Wednesday.

“What we’re attempting to do in both of these bills is to create more oversight on the community end so that folks have a better understanding of what is being used in their neighborhoods, and where they may be abused or over concentration of surveillance in neighborhoods,” Burnett said.

One of the ways its previously been used to create harm is by misidentifying people classified as criminals. Something the senior organizer for Organizing Black Martaze Gaines said seems to affect people of color disproportionately.

“A few weeks ago, we gave a film screening on a coded bias which really talks about the bias that is pervasive through technology, including facial recognition technology,” Gaines said.

Gaines supports Councilman Burnett’s bills because of the guardrails implicated. One bill will establish a signage registration requirement for the use of facial recognition technology so that people can be made aware of when they could potentially be surveilled.

“So that people can go online and say hey this is where this is used, I’m uncomfortable with this, I don’t want to risk being miss identified or my data being collected and sold to who knows what or where and I’d rather not go to that space,” Burnett said.

Burnett said the second bill creates an oversight commission made up with a board full of people from various industries.

“A variety of perspective from folks specializing in civil rights reforming, municipal governments, police oversight, and accountability folks with the experience of the intersections of technology and ethics representatives from community organizations,” Burnett said.