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State Lawmakers to Consider Northam's Facial Recognition Bill Amendment Next Week

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Lawmakers will be reconsidering a bill on facial recognition technology when they meet next week.

Facial recognition technology has been around for a while, but that doesn't mean lawmakers are comfortable with the police using it. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a bill limiting when local law enforcement agencies or campus police can use the technology.

Delegate Danica Roem pointed to a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology showing Asian Americans and African Americans are much more likely to be misidentified.

"This study, it clearly demonstrates that there is very much existing bias especially toward Black women," said Roem.

That's why Delegate Lashrecse Aird says the General Assembly needs to give approval to law enforcement agencies before they're able to deploy the technology.

"This is one of many studies that has made it very clear that the technology is not ready for prime time," explained Aird.

Now, Governor Ralph Northam is amending the bill to make it clear that the new limitation does not apply to airports, where local law enforcement agencies can often overlap with federal and state agencies.

"They have a requirement for their law enforcement entities to work with federal entities as well, and so we wanted to make sure this does not conflict with that," Aird said.

Lawmakers will be voting on the amended legislation when they convene on April 7th.

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.