Maryland Set to Enact Nation’s Strongest Regulations for Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Maryland state outline

Updated May 16, 2024

SILVER SPRING, Md. – On April 8, 2024, during its last day of regular session, the Maryland General Assembly unanimously passed House Bill 338/Senate Bill 182 to regulate the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement across the state. Gov. Wes Moore signed the bill into law on May 16.

Currently there are no statutory requirements, and use is governed by individual agency policies. The new measure imposes a uniform statewide policy with extensive requirements applicable to any state, county or city law enforcement agency that uses facial recognition technology.

The bill garnered broad support after an agreement was struck among a diverse group of stakeholders across law enforcement, industry and civil rights organizations and would be the strongest law in the nation crafted with input from subject matter experts on the technology and its use in law enforcement. The Security Industry Association (SIA) testified in support of the measure on Feb. 13, 2024, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. 

“We deeply appreciate leadership from Majority Leader Del. David Moon, the chief House sponsor, in making sure an agreement was reached that provides maximum transparency, accountability and safeguards to address public concerns, without placing undue limits on investigative tools used every day by our law enforcement professionals to solve crimes and keep Marylanders safe,” said SIA Senior Director of Government Relations Jake Parker.

While the measure is a carefully crafted compromise that includes additional provisions, the core aspects are consistent with SIA’s Principles for the Responsible and Effective Use of Facial Recognition, including:

  • Establishing a statewide standard for state and local agency policies on authorized use of the technology
  • Prohibiting use of facial recognition match results as the sole basis to make an arrest, establish probable cause or make a positive identification
  • Prohibiting use of the technology to identify individuals engaged in constitutionally protected activities or based solely on their race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin and other classifications protected by law from discrimination
  • Ensuring potential match results from the software can never be used as evidence against a defendant
  • Requiring an agency program coordinator responsible for policy adherence and routine usage audits
  • Public transparency, documentation and periodic centralized reporting on agency use of the technology

Though they are more robust, Maryland’s new requirements follow other new laws with similar provisions in states like Virginia, where agencies using the technology are required to adopt the Virginia State Police model policy, and Alabama, which established uniform standards for agencies effective March 2023.

For over a decade, Maryland law enforcement agencies have used photo-matching software as a post-incident investigative tool to aid identification by generating leads from available databases, with many documented successes. This technology has also become an indispensable tool in fighting child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

“This legislation will reassure Marylanders that our law enforcement agencies are leveraging facial recognition software in a lawful, effective, accurate and nondiscriminatory manner that benefits our residents and communities,” said Maryland Chiefs and Sheriffs Association Executive Director Darren Popkin.

While the process is similar to other methods used to identify leads from a crime scene photos through public notices or manually looking through mugshot records, facial recognition technology automates and improves the first step of identifying potentially matching photos from a database. At the same time, public concerns had surfaced over whether the photo-matching technology is accurate enough and how it might be used in the absence of uniform rules.

“This legislation strikes a fair balance between giving law enforcement a necessary tool to solve crime and protecting the rights of citizens, and to do so in a nondiscriminatory way,” said Scott Shellenberger, state’s attorney for Baltimore County.   

Shellenberger, along with SIA and the Maryland Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, participated among other individuals and organizations in an informal legislative task force to develop the legislation, led by Del. Moon (D-Montgomery County) and Maryland Sen. Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore County).

About SIA

SIA is the leading trade association for global security solution providers, with over 1,400 innovative member companies representing thousands of security leaders and experts who shape the future of the security industry. SIA protects and advances its members’ interests by advocating pro-industry policies and legislation at the federal and state levels, creating open industry standards that enable integration, advancing industry professionalism through education and training, opening global market opportunities and collaborating with other like-minded organizations. As the premier sponsor of ISC Events expos and conferences, SIA ensures its members have access to top-level buyers and influencers, as well as unparalleled learning and network opportunities. SIA also enhances the position of its members in the security marketplace through SIA GovSummit, which brings together private industry with government decision makers, and Securing New Ground, the security industry’s top executive conference for peer-to-peer networking.