Bill To Limit Use Of State Facial Recognition Software Passes Senate

Feb 2, 2021

On Monday, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would add some constraints to the state’s use of facial recognition software. 

Republican Senator Daniel Thatcher from West Valley City sponsored S.B. 34, which limits use of the Department of Public Safety’s facial recognition database to law enforcement officials who make a specific request in the course of an investigation.

During the bill’s committee hearing on January 22nd, Senator Thatcher said DPS has the most comprehensive database in the state, currently most often used to compare faces in an attempt to prevent identity theft. In addition to requiring specific requests from officials to use that database, S.B. 34 would also notify people when they are subjected to facial recognition searches.

“Facial recognition is a very powerful technology,” Thatcher said. “We should be very careful and cautious in how it is applied and how it is used. We should make sure that these programs are not abused.”

During public testimony, Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute didn’t speak in opposition or support of the bill, rather he said S.B. 34 is a step in the right direction for regulating facial recognition software. But Boyack said it doesn’t go far enough, including not limiting law enforcement agencies to create their own databases separate from the Department of Public Safety’s.

“This bill, at the request of law enforcement agencies, leaves it open,” Boyack said. “That any law enforcement agency around the state can acquire their own facial recognition technology. They can then use data that they have or they acquire.”

The bill passed out of the Senate with a vote of 24-to-3 and now heads to the House of Representatives.