Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats in both houses of Congress said Thursday they are introducing a bill that would ban government use of facial recognition technology.

Why it matters: A handful of cities have banned government use in their jurisdictions, but there are no national laws governing how facial recognition can be used, and there's wide concern over how the tech today encodes racial and other kinds of biases.

Driving the news:

  • Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said they will introduce legislation in both houses to stop government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools.
  • The announcement comes after a Michigan man, Robert Williams, was wrongfully arrested due to flawed facial recognition software.
  • Microsoft has said it will stop selling the technology to police until a national law is passed, while Amazon has put a one-year halt to such sales and IBM has exited the business.

What they're saying:

  • Robert Williams, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Why is law enforcement even allowed to use such technology when it obviously doesn't work? I get angry when I hear companies, politicians and police talk about how this technology isn't dangerous or flawed."
  • Markey: "Facial recognition technology doesn't just pose a grave threat to our privacy, it physically endangers Black Americans and other minority populations in our country."

Between the lines: A strictly partisan bill from a quartet of lawmakers who are among the farthest left in their respective chambers is unlikely to gain wide traction anytime soon. But the call to fully ban facial recognition in the U.S. signals where the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is on the issue.

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Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 31, 2020 - Technology

Chinese facial recognition developer nears $1.5 billion funding round

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SenseTime, a Chinese developer of facial recognition technologies, is wrapping up a $1.5 billion funding round at a $10 billion valuation and is in talks to list on China’s STAR market, per Reuters.

Why it matters: This is the company’s first fundraise since being placed on a U.S. blacklist for alleged involvement in human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China. It previously raised nearly $3 billion, including from U.S.-based firms like Fidelity, Glade Brook, Qualcomm Ventures, and Silver Lake Partners.

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg along Supreme Court steps

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

At the Supreme Court steps Friday night hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — singing in a candlelight vigil, with some in tears.

Details: If there is a singular mood at the Supreme Court tonight, it’s some kind of a daze manifested by silence. 

A court fight for the ages

The flag flies at half-staff as people mourn on the Supreme Court steps last night. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — feminist icon, legal giant, toast of pop culture — left this statement with granddaughter Clara Spera as cancer closed in: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

The big picture: For all that the nation owes "Notorious RBG" — the hip-hop-inspired nickname she enjoyed and embraced — Republicans are planning to do their best to be sure her robe is quickly filled, despite that last wish, with her ideological polar opposite.