Utah Senate passes a bill that would regualte the state’s use of facial recognition software

On Monday, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would add some constraints to the state’s use of facial recognition software.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, sponsored Senate Bill 34, which limits use of the Department of Public Safety’s facial recognition database to law enforcement officials who make a specific request in the course of an investigation.

During the bill’s committee hearing on January 22nd, Senator Thatcher said DPS has the most comprehensive database in the state, currently most often used to compare faces in an attempt to prevent identity theft. In addition to requiring specific requests from officials to use that database, Senate Bill 34 would also notify people when they are subjected to facial recognition searches.

“Facial recognition is a very powerful technology. We should be very careful and cautious in how it is applied and how it is used. We should make sure that those programs are not abused,” he said.

During public testimony, Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute didn’t speak in opposition or support of the bill, rather he said SB 34 is a step in the right direction for regulating facial recognition software. But Boyack said it doesn’t go far enough, including not limiting law enforcement agencies to create their own databases separate from the DPS’s.

“This bill, at the request of law enforcement agencies, leaves it open. That any law enforcement agency around the state can acquire and utilize their own facial recognition technology. They can then use data that they have or they acquire. There’s no central repository to put those eyeballs on and regulate,” he said.

The bill passed out of the Senate with a vote of 24-to-3 and now heads to the House of Representatives.

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