White House developing bill of rights to protect against data-driven technology abuses

The Office of Science and Technology Policy seeks information on biometrics technologies that are used to confirm identity.
surveillance facial recognition biometric cctv
(Getty Images)

The White House plans to develop a bill of rights that data-driven technologies like facial recognition must respect based, according to a request for information issued Friday.

The new document will be in part based on input from government agencies, academia and industry. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seeks information on public and private biometrics use cases, where the technology was used to verify identity, identify people or determine attributes like a person’s mental or emotional state.

Machine-learning algorithms employed by such technologies depend heavily on the data used to train them, and biased datasets lead to biased outcomes that can violate people’s civil rights. The government may ultimately decide to refuse or ban problematic data-driven technologies, of which biometrics form a large subset.

“We’re starting here because of how widely they’re being adopted, and how rapidly they’re evolving, not just for identification and surveillance, but also to infer our emotional states and intentions,” wrote OSTP Director Eric Lander and Deputy Director for Science and Society Alondra Nelson, in an op-ed on Wired.


While facial recognition in law enforcement is the most prominent biometrics use case, OSTP’s RFI makes clear it’s also interested in others like facial recognition controlling access to buildings, medical records or public benefits; facial and voice recognition screening potential hires for trustworthiness, students’ attention or responses to advertisements; keystroke analysis detecting medical conditions; and gait recognition and heart rate analysis determining health.

OSTP is particularly interested in hearing from parties developing, acquiring or using biometrics and the communities impacted by that use, according to the RFI.

Other topics the RFI wants respondents to address include how biometrics are validated and secured, their risks and benefits, and governance best practices.

Respondents have until 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 15, 2022, to comment on the RFI.

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