Four people walking down the street having their face scanned with facial recognition.

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Maine passes ‘strongest’ facial recognition restrictions in the country

In the absence of federal rules, cities and states are filling the gaps.


Andrew Wyrich


Posted on Jun 30, 2021   Updated on Aug 4, 2021, 4:03 pm CDT

Maine has enacted a set of regulations surrounding government use of facial recognition that is being hailed by the ACLU as the “strongest” statewide rules in the country.

The rules, LD1585, passed through both chambers of the state’s legislature and became law without any action from Gov. Janet Mills (D), the ACLU said on Wednesday.

The rules prohibit any department, public employee, or public official from obtaining or possessing information derived from facial recognition or entering into an agreement with a third party to obtain or possess facial recognition material.

There are some instances where facial recognition can be used, specifically when “investigating a serious crime” or assisting in identifying a missing person. In the instance the technology is used to investigate a serious crime, police need to request a facial recognition search from the FBI or the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The law also clearly notes that any facial surveillance data does not alone establish probable cause.

Last year, Portland, Maine voted to ban facial recognition in the city.

“Maine is showing the rest of the country what it looks like when we the people are in control of our civil rights and civil liberties, not tech companies that stand to profit from widespread government use of face surveillance technology,” said Michael Kebede, policy counsel at the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement. “The overwhelming support for this law shows Mainers agree that we can’t let technology or tech companies dictate the contours of our core constitutional rights.”

State Rep. Grayson Lookner, the sponsor of the bill, called it passing a “huge victory for privacy rights and civil liberties in Maine.”

Facial recognition technology has been shown to have a racial bias, and calls have grown louder for a ban on the use of it, specifically by the government and law enforcement.

Maine’s law comes as many cities and municipalities across the country have stepped up to regulate facial recognition in the absence of laws at the federal level.

Earlier this month, King County in Washington became the first county in the country to ban the technology. Before that, numerous cities including San FranciscoOaklandBoston, and Minneapolis had also enacted bans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would put a moratorium on government and law enforcement use of the technology that could only be lifted by an act of Congress.

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*First Published: Jun 30, 2021, 10:42 am CDT