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Facial recognition bill moves in state Legislature, law enforcement hoping for changes

African American man with facial recognition scan
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A bill recently passed in the state Senate would prevent law enforcement from using facial recognition technology. The bill has some exceptions, like for an emergency involving immediate risk of harm to a person.

A bill recently passed in the state Senate would prevent law enforcement from using facial recognition technology.

Republican Senator Peter Lucido is a bill sponsor. He says technology is developing faster than state laws.

“This is just a law to catch up to what it is that is going on. People are being searched without any warrant based on electronics,” Lucido said.

Some members of law enforcement have concerns about the bill.

Bill Vailliencourt is the president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

“Law enforcement understands the concerns about the idea of the surveillant state and real time facial recognition software being used,” Vailliencourt said.

He says the bill that passed the state Senate is better than the original draft. For example, there’s is an exception that allows police to use the technology in case of an emergency.

But Vailliencourt says he’s concerned that the bill bans the use of information obtained from real time facial recognition technology.

Another concern is whether local law enforcement and prosecutors could use facial recognition evidence obtained by federal officers, or an independent company. For example, a bank could have its own technology. If that bank is robbed, could it share that technology with law enforcement? Vailliencourt says it’s not clear. He says there is still work to be done to find a balance.

The bill is now up for consideration in the state House.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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