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City Leaders, Advocates Raise Privacy And Bias Concerns About Use Of Facial Recognition In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- City leaders and advocates are raising concerns about the use of facial recognition technology and its use in Baltimore.

At a press conference outside City Hall Thursday, they said there is not enough research about the technology and that it all too often misidentifies black and brown citizens and can lead to false arrest and detention.

"These technologies are built with algorithmic bias and racial bias," said Ralikh Hayes, the Deputy Director of Organizing Black.

"We must halt the use of facial recognition technology and instead give Baltimore City's young people the schools they deserve," said Corey Gaber with the Baltimore City Teacher's Union.

Bill 21, which passed through the Public Safety and Government Operations Committee, would allow current technology to remain in place, but prohibit any future upgrades. It's sponsored by Councilman Kristerfer Burnett.

"We don't want police not to be able to solve crime, but we're skeptical that the expanded use of this would actually accomplish that," he said.

In a letter to the City Council, Baltimore Police said it uses facial recognition technology "as a force multiplier to aide good old-fashioned detective work."

In response to the bill, the Police Department wrote: "We believe that rather than a prohibition against the acquisition of any new facial recognition technology, it would be more prudent to establish safeguards to prevent intentional misuse."

The Police Department gave the example of mandatory training and an annual audit.

Earlier this year, Baltimore voted to end its use of a controversial aerial surveillance program. Advocates of Bill 21 said facial recognition software brings up similar privacy concerns.

"I'm concerned about its misuse more than its use," said Melissa Middlebrooks. "It has a big brother essence and I'm not really in favor of that," her husband, Craig Middlebrooks told WJZ.

Bill 21 requires the formation of a Task Force, comprised of members of City Council, BPD and experts, who will be asked to suggest ways to regulate and monitor the facial recognition technology.

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