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Where Are They Now: A Look at Some Recent Tech Legislation

2021 was a banner year for bills on some big topics, including bans on discriminatory tech, protecting biometric data, regulating facial recognition technology and the use of drones. Here is a look at where they are now.

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The number of technology-focused pieces of legislation seems to grow every year in statehouses across the country. In this piece, we'll look at some of the bills we've covered and answer the question "Where are they now?"

2021 was a banner year for bills on some big topics, including bans on discriminatory tech, protecting biometric data, regulating facial recognition technology and the use of drones. Of the four bills we reported on, two were enacted, one has been reintroduced and another has been added as a draft to a new piece of legislation. Here are the latest details ...


DRONING ON IN FLORIDA


Senate Bill 44 from Florida expands the use of drones by state law enforcement and government agencies to help with traffic management and collecting information related to crime scenes.

While the legislation allows drones to collect information, it also states that agencies cannot issue a traffic infraction citation based on images or video captured by a drone.

State and local agencies can also use drones to assess damage after floods, wildfires and other natural disasters and assist fire department personnel in performing tasks within the scope and practice authorized under their certifications.

However, one concern in using this technology is its potential to violate people's first amendment rights.

“The concern with using drones or any type of surveillance tech to survey, for example, protests, violates peoples’ first amendment rights,” Matthew Guariglia, a political analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, previously told Government Technology. “If at every protest drones were flying overhead and they used facial recognition tech to identify the individuals attending these protests, it would make people less inclined to be politically active and violate their privacy.”

The bill took immediate effect following Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature in June 2021.

FACIAL RECOGNITION RECKONING


A bill signed into law in Utah last March prevents law enforcement from “scanning the state’s drivers’ license database using facial recognition technology — unless they’re investigating high-level crimes,” effectively limiting the use of the technology.

The issue initially came about after state lawmakers and citizens raised concerns regarding the state’s Department of Public Safety allegedly scanning driver’s license photos to search for a wanted person at the request of out-of-state interests without warrants.

The Washington Post first reported on the issue in 2019, prompting lawmakers to propose a bill that limited facial recognition technology.

The legislation enforces the following:
  • A government entity may not use a facial recognition system on an image database.
  • Only a law enforcement agency may request a government entity to conduct a facial recognition comparison using a facial recognition system.
  • A law enforcement agency must submit a request for a facial recognition comparison on an image database in writing to the government entity that manages the image database.
  • A law enforcement agency must submit a request for a facial recognition comparison on an image database shared with or maintained by the department.
  • And lastly, a government entity may not use a facial recognition system for civil immigration violations.

AI UP FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION


The Washington state bill, Senate Bill 5116, aimed at regulating “automated decision systems” and AI technology used within state government has been reintroduced and heard by the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.

According to the bill, these systems use algorithms to analyze data and make decisions that could result in discrimination against different groups or lead to decisions that could negatively impact constitutional or legal rights.

As a result, the legislation looks to regulate these systems to prevent discrimination and ban government agencies from using AI tech to profile individuals in public areas.

Since being reintroduced, an executive session has been scheduled to discuss the bill further.

“This bill would set a precedent and raise awareness of how people’s lives are being affected by algorithmic decision-making tools,” Jennifer Lee, a technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU-WA, previously told Government Technology. “There are lots of automated decision systems being used to make decisions regarding sentencing, medical care, banking and other areas that impact people’s lives.”

ANOTHER RUN AT BIOMETRIC PROTECTIONS


Lastly, a Massachusetts bill focused on protecting personal biometric data has been added to a new piece of legislation as a draft.

The previous legislation looked to establish several rules, including requiring private entities to create a written policy that sets a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying biometric identifiers.

The new bill incorporates this concept into an overarching statewide effort to tackle information privacy and security.
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.