Currently, Maine has the strictest laws regulating the government’s use of facial recognition.
The new law prohibits governments from using facial recognition, except under specifically stated circumstances, with the broadest exceptions being when the police force an unknown person in an image to likely have committed a serious crime, or to prevent fraud in the first place. It is for
Maine police do not have access to facial recognition, so they can request these searches from the FBI and the Maine Automobile Service (BMV).
Crucially, the law closes a loophole that police have used in the past to gain access to technology, such as asking other agencies or third parties to run back-channel searches unofficially. All facial recognition search logs of BMV must be generated and designated as public records.
The ACLU enacted this new law as a major victory in national action to block facial recognition.
“Main is showing the rest of the world what it’s like when our people control their civil rights and civil liberties, rather than a tech company where governments profit from widespread use of facial surveillance technology,” said ACLU of Attorney Michael Kebede Maine. , said in a press release.
The only other statewide facial recognition law was enacted by Washington in 2020, but many privacy advocates were dissatisfied with the details of the law. Washington state law provides a generous piece of technology for police to conduct surveillance and use that technology to deny access to services such as housing or educational registration. Specifically written by State Senator Joe Nguyen, who is currently a Microsoft employee.
Virginia and Massachusetts legislatures have banned the use of facial recognition by police, but neither have been able to regulate the technology in schools and other state agencies.
Maine’s new law also gives citizens the ability to sue the state if they have been illegally targeted by facial recognition. This was not specifically covered by Washington’s regulations. If you do an illegal facial recognition search, it must be deleted and cannot be used as evidence.
The law was enacted after it passed the state legislature and does not require the signature of Maine Governor Janet Mills. Effective from 1 October 2021.