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Facial recognition measure will soon be on Youngkin's desk

This photo taken Tuesday, May 7, 2019, shows a security camera. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/AP
This photo taken Tuesday, May 7, 2019, shows a security camera. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Governor Glenn Youngkin will soon be considering a bill allowing local police departments to use controversial facial recognition technology.

Big Brother is watching you, or at least that's the concern of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are opposing legislation that would let your local police department use facial recognition technology. Senator Scott Surovell is a Democrat from Fairfax County who says those concerns are overblown.

"There's nothing in the bill that allows any type of surveillance or monitoring," Surovell says. "The technology can only be used if you have a picture of somebody that you want to feed into the algorithm to then try to identify them or to identify their people affiliated with them for purposes of investigating a crime."

That's not a persuasive argument to Delegate Cia Price, a Democrat from Newport News. She says this technology will allow for the kind of over-policing that Democrats were trying to end when they were in power.

"There are neighborhoods where police cars drive by certain spots four, five, six, seven times a day," Price says. "And little kids in neighborhoods like the ones that I grew up in and that I represent know this feeling, and other areas don't have that."

Critics say local police departments should at least have to get a warrant before they use facial recognition technology, although that's not in the bill that's currently under consideration. After a few procedural votes, it's expected to head to the governor's desk in the next few days.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.