|House and Senate reach agreement on facial recognition rules
OLYMPIA – On Thursday, March 12, the Washington state House of Representatives and Senate reached a final compromise on legislation (Senate Bill 6280) to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in Washington state following a series of conference negotiations.
“The agreement we reached is a sensible compromise,” said Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), who sponsored a bill in the House that called for a three-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology. “I am confident that this bill now provides adequate guardrails for this emerging technology. It will mandate community input in how facial recognition technology is used and ensure that any use by the government is thoroughly vetted for accuracy, necessity, and fairness.”
Prior to the final conference agreement, the House committee on Innovation, Technology and Economic Development strengthened language to create stronger regulations around the use of facial recognition, including law enforcement use. The Senate refused the House amendments, resulting in a series of conference negotiations.
The final version of the bill is one of the first and most comprehensive laws to regulate facial recognition technology in the nation. It includes:
- Requiring regular reporting on use of facial recognition from public agencies.
- Testing for fairness and accuracy as the technology has proven to show biases toward women, people of color, trans/non-binary people, children and seniors.
- Providing employees with usage training.
- Requiring law enforcement obtain a court order or warrant for use, except in emergency situations.
- Establishing a task force to study how public agencies should use and deploy facial recognition technology.
“While this legislation isn’t perfect, we have put forward a strong policy that creates accountability and guidelines for how this powerful technology is used,” said Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-Tukwila), chair of the Innovation, Technology, and Economic Development (ITED) Committee. “We remain concerned by reports of biases in the technology, so we look forward to working with the task force on necessary improvements.”
As the bill was amended from the versions that the House and Senate passed, both bodies voted on the reworked bill. The House passed it with a vote of 53-43 and the Senate with a vote of 27-21. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The legislative session concludes on March 12, 2020.