Washington state approves stronger facial recognition regulations

Mariella Moon
Associate Editor
KENGKAT via Getty Images

Washington officials have approved a set of stronger facial recognition regulations for the state. Members of the state's House of Representatives and the Senate have reached a final compromise on the rules designed to regulate the use of facial recognition. Since Washington often leads the way in tech-related laws -- it was the first state to pass its own net neutrality law -- this sounds like an auspicious development for privacy advocates across the nation.

The House and the Senate originally couldn't agree on the language used for Senate Bill 6280. After a series of negotiations, though, they were able to decide on a final version of the bill, which the lawmakers say is "one of the first and most comprehensive laws to regulate facial recognition technology in the nation."

Under the bill, facial recognition technologies have to be tested for fairness and accuracy, since they've been proven to show bias against women and people of color. Law enforcement agencies would have to secure a court order or a warrant to be able to use them, and Washington state has to form a task force to study how public agencies should use and deploy facial recognition technologies.

Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement:

"The agreement we reached is a sensible compromise. I am confident that this bill now provides adequate guardrails for this emerging technology. It will mandate community input in how facial recognition technology is used and ensure that any use by the government is thoroughly vetted for accuracy, necessity, and fairness."

Now that both the House and the Senate have approved the amended bill, the only thing it's waiting for is the governor's signature.