Maine Bans Facial Recognition

Published · Jul 09, 2021

Maine introduces the strictest facial recognition laws in the US. The new regulation prevents the use of this authentication method by government agencies except in specific situations.

Exceptions can be made if law enforcement has probable cause to believe an unidentified person in footage has committed a serious crime or to prevent fraud.

The Maine police will not have access to facial recognition and will therefore have to ask the FBI or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to run these searches.

Previously, law enforcement made use of loopholes by informally asking other agencies or third parties to run searches for them. With this law, the BMV must create and make the logs of all facial searches public record.

In a press release, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer Michael Kebede said that “Maine is showing the rest of the country what it looks like when we the people are in control of our civil rights and civil liberties,” rather than tech companies using big data for profit in commerce and civil society.

Mass Surveillance

Increasingly, surveillance is present in nearly every sector of society. The above is a good example of its application in law enforcement. Employers often make use of background check services to vet prospective candidates.

For their part, big tech companies are focused on harvesting user data to provide these services to businesses, governments, and advertisers. These activities are drawing increased scrutiny while the average user looks for ways to minimize their online footprint and prevent identity theft.

Maine isn’t the only state to take steps to curb excessive surveillance—Washington and Massachusetts are passing similar laws. With the struggle over data heating up between tech firms and governments worldwide, more developments are to be expected.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.