OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate voted 30-18 today to install key safeguards in the use of facial recognition technology by agencies in the public sector.

Senate Bill 6280, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance and limit its use to instances when facial recognition surveillance would provide evidence of serious criminal offense. In these circumstances, a search warrant would be required by law enforcement or other government agencies before using the technology.

As facial recognition technology is already being utilized throughout Washington and online, there are few laws in place to restrict its use. This bill would change that by setting clear standards for the use of the technology by public agencies.

“The companies that are already producing this technology don’t care about the moral implications involved — they care about profit,” Nguyen said. “That’s why we need to take action now to hold these companies accountable and ensure that public agencies don’t keep using this technology without any regulatory checks or balances.”

During a time when many are skeptical of the technology due to reports of bias against women and people of color, Nguyen hopes to establish moral guardrails in Washington state that can be more broadly applied across the country.

“We have an opportunity to look at this technology and figure out how we can make it more equitable for everyone,” said Nguyen. “Now is the time to really work on this and find ways to root out that bias, so people across the country can be protected from unnecessary and intrusive surveillance. This is an issue that we should be leading on.”

The bill would also require agencies using the technology to produce an accountability report outlining their intended use, as well as an annual report disclosing violations to the report and all known uses of the technology. Additionally, the use of facial recognition technology would be subject to meaningful review as a further security net to ensure accurate representation.

“We can’t afford to stand pat and do nothing,” said Nguyen. “We need to regulate facial recognition technology now.”

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.


For information: Courtney James, Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853