The state of Washington (USA) adopted specific legislation on facial recognition

As reported on the website, the legislative assemblies of the State of Washington found a compromise on a final text on March 12, 2020.

This law, which is one of the first in the field, aims to specifically regulate the use of facial recognition technology by public authorities. According to a document available on the website of the elected representatives of the Democratic Party of the State, this bill will permit to require reporting on the technology, to test fairness and accuracy of algorithms, to provide an appropriate training for users, to make the use of the technology subject to judicial authorization and to establish a group of review on the use of the technology by public authorities.

In more detail, the law:

1/ Requires the establishment of an accountability report prior to the start of the implementation of the technology.

2/ Requires that human review of algorithmic decisions that have a legal effect on individuals is ensured.

3/ Sets the obligation to test facial recognition under operational conditions in order to obtain and maintain the best possible quality of result.

4/ Requires that authorities must subject the technology provider to the obligation “to enable legitimate, independent, and reasonable tests of those facial recognition services for accuracy and unfair performance differences across distinct subpopulations.”

5/ Requires that authorities must ensure regular training of individuals using the technology. This training should include, as a minimum, knowledge of the technical operation of the technology and the interaction between the algorithmic result and the human decision.

6/ Sets various obligations to store and publicize the uses of the technology in order to preserve the rights of defense and public audits. Judges should report annually on the requests they have or have not granted to the authorities for the use of facial recognition. The authorities must submit an annual report on their use of the technology.

7/ Requires an authority that would use facial recognition in the context of a federal request to inform the state legislative authority.

8/ Requires the creation of a 21-member task force comprising representatives of different stakeholder. It should provide recommendations on the effectiveness of the applicable law and conduct studies on the quality, accuracy and efficacy of facial recognition services.

9/ Prohibits the use of facial recognition for real-time surveillance, discriminatory profiling, limitations on the exercise of fundamental rights or the use of algorithmic results as the sole basis for criminal evidence.

This specific legislation is an important step in the regulation of this type of tool, especially taking into consideration that the State of Washington does not have legislation relating to the protection of personal data.


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