Bernie Sanders has included banning the use of facial recognition by police forces in a new criminal justice reform plan published on Sunday.
The plan doesn’t elaborate much on Sanders’ reasons for banning the technology, but Democratic 2020 candidate said he will “ensure law enforcement accountability and robust oversight.”
Facial recognition systems such as Amazon’s Rekognition software are already starting to be deployed by some US law enforcement. The use of Rekognition has been opposed by civil rights organisations, AI experts, and even Amazon workers.
Rekognition has been criticised by researchers for displaying ingrained racial and gender bias. A pair of researchers published a paper in January which concluded Rekognition showed higher error rates for women and people with darker skin tones.
Amazon Web Services’ general manager of artificial intelligence Dr. Matt Wood pushed back against the paper, calling it “misleading” because, among other things, the researchers used an outdated version of the software.
Apart from any inherent flaws in the software, numerous reports have emerged of police forces struggling to use Rekognition properly. A Gizmodo report from January revealed police in Washington County were not adhering to Amazon’s guidelines on using the software’s confidence ratings (i.e. a percentage it gives on the certainty of a match). Orlando police ditched the software last month due to technical problems and a lack of resources.