The Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety & Government Operations Committee moved on May 26, 2021, to advance a proposal that would ban nearly all applications of facial recognition technology in the city. Prior to the vote, the Security Industry Association (SIA) and other leading technology and business groups wrote a letter to the committee expressing concerns about the profound negative impact of the measure for residents of Baltimore.
Importantly, the letter noted, “[prohibiting] access to opt-in customer experience conveniences, whether in retail, health care or other settings, is much broader than the concerns raised around law enforcement and government applications.”
The organizations noted that the proposed ordinance, as currently drafted, would prohibit banks from using facial recognition technology to enhance consumer security in financial transactions, prevent retailers from speeding checkout lines with contactless payment and prohibit remote online identity document verification needed by online sellers or gig economy workers. Also detailed in the letter were the even more significant negative human impacts of prohibiting applications that provide increased and customized accessibility for disabled persons and banning technology that assists people suffering from blindness, memory loss or prosopagnosia (face blindness) in recognizing friends and others.