House Bill Would Fund Fed Research on Facial Recognition and Policing

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Chairperson of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, introduced legislation on June 18 to fund research into policing activities including the use of emerging tech such as facial recognition.

The Promoting Fair and Effective Policing Through Research Act directs the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to invest in policing research and other initiatives. Rep. Bernice Johnson commented that as the nation mourns the deaths of countless black men and women at the hands of police, Americans are demanding meaningful and lasting change to the country’s policing systems.

“We must dig deep to examine how the history and culture of policing in America has brought us to this tumultuous place. And, in our search for solutions, we must be guided by evidence grounded in data and scientific research,” Rep. Bernice Johnson urged. “We must study the influence of technology and big data on vulnerable populations and work to root out any biases,” she added.

NIST would receive $2 million toward research in biometric identification systems, including facial recognition tech. The research would work toward identifying and minimizing biases in such algorithms. Ultimately, NIST would release public-facing reports on its findings and work with DHS to inform the implementation of biometric identification systems.

NSF would receive $10 million toward social and behavioral research on policing policies, specifically to mitigate police violence. The National Academies would also receive funds to identify research gaps in law enforcement policies. At DHS, a $2 million investment would go toward reducing the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

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