2020 Bills

SB 218: Restrictions on Government Use of Facial Recognition

This bill never received a vote.

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it is aligned with our principles and and merits support.

Last summer, Utahns learned that their government had been using facial recognition technology without public knowledge or legislative oversight.

During the fall, we participated in legislative hearings where the Department of Public Safety provided information about how they had been using the technology. One legislative proposal to codify the status quo and empower the government was slapped down.

In private meetings with public safety staff, we learned about their internal policies and, from our perspective, how these policies fell short of adequately protecting privacy and limiting government use of this technology.

Following these meetings, we negotiated on legal restrictions to impose on the government’s use of this technology. Senator Curt Bramble is sponsoring Senate Bill 218 to implement these restrictions. They include:

    • Prohibiting all government agencies, except the Department of Public Safety, from using facial recognition technology.
    • Prohibiting all photos from use other than the driver license photo database and mugshots of convicted criminals.
    • Requiring training of DPS staff who use the technology, including implicit bias training.
    • Allowing facial recognition technology only for:
      •  investigating a felony, violent crime, or threat to life; or
      • identifying a deceased or incapacitated individual or an individual otherwise unable to identify the individual;
    • Requiring officers requesting a facial recognition search to provide a case ID and a statement of the specific crime and factual narrative to support that there is a fair probability that the individual who is the subject of the request is connected to the crime.
    • Requiring a second opinion of a potential match by another trained employee or a supervisor.
    • Providing only a single result—not a bulk set of matches—to the requesting agency.
    • Disclosing to the prosecutor that a facial recognition comparison was used along with a description of how it was used.
    • Compiling statistical data about the use of facial recognition, including the type of crimes for which it was used, for public release and reporting to the Legislature.
The government has been using this technology for a decade in Utah without public knowledge or legislative oversight. This bill imposes important restrictions to better ensure privacy and appropriate use of new technology.
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