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March 3, 2022

This joint letter was written by and sent to lawmakers on behalf of the ACLU of Virginia, Justice Forward Virginia, Marijuana Justice, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Virginia Student Power Network, and 2LOVE LLC.

In principle, we oppose any use of facial recognition software by law enforcement. Technologies like this are disproportionately used in Black and Brown communities and, despite what vendor test data claims, facial recognition technology has been shown to be more inaccurate in identifying Black and Brown people, especially when the photo is grainy, when the lighting is bad, and when the suspect is not looking directly at the camera. While vendors may claim to have solved these problems in test under ideal conditions, we are unaware of any widespread testing under real-life conditions that confirms these claims.

"When used by police in criminal investigations, facial recognition technology can, and has, led to wrongful arrests and civil rights violations. For example, Mr. Rober Williams, a Black man in Detroit, MI has his life turned upside down when he was falsely accused based on the use of facial recognition technology. As a result of this case, a federal lawsuit is making its way through the court system that claims the police violated Mr. Williams’ Fourth Amendment and civil rights. Passing SB 741/HB 1339 opens the door for law enforcement agencies to use this invasive technology at the risk of innocent Virginians getting entangled in the system and exposing police departments to costly lawsuits for the abuse of the technology.

"In addition, we are seriously concerned that the bill permits law enforcement officers to use facial recognition technology without getting a warrant, which would at least provide notice that the technology was being used. Giving law enforcement access to an expansive database of photos and people’s identities without a warrant signed by a judge is reckless, invasive, and ripe for abuse. Without a warrant, there is no documented justification that there is a need to use facial recognition technology.

You can read the full letter below.