Kelly Joins 17 Senators to Raise Concerns About Facial Recognition Software, Demand Better DOJ Oversight

Today, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and 17 other Senators raised concerns with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that funding facial recognition software, which can be inaccurate and unreliable, may lead to violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits “discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The Senators also called for additional action and oversight from DOJ concerning these fallible technologies.  

The letter follows widespread reporting about Georgia resident, Randal Quran Reid, who was arrested in November 2022 while driving to his mother’s house for a crime committed in Louisiana, a state Reid has never visited. Reid’s case is not an anomaly: there are at least five other publicly known cases of Black people falsely arrested based on nothing more than a facial recognition software match. 

“We are deeply concerned that facial recognition technology may reinforce racial bias in our criminal justice system and contribute to arrests based on faulty evidence,” wrote the Senators. “Errors in facial recognition technology can upend the lives of American citizens. Should evidence demonstrate that errors systematically discriminate against communities of color, then funding these technologies could facilitate violations of federal civil rights laws.” 

Numerous academic and government studies establish that facial recognition technology is especially likely to misidentify not only Black faces, but Native American, and Asian faces as well. One study found that facial recognition software was up to twice as likely to find false positives for Black and Asian faces.  

In addition to Kelly, the letter is signed by Cory Booker (D-NJ), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

Click here to read the letter.