Members of the Interim Committee on Economic Affairs failed to advance any draft legislation to regulate the use of emerging facial recognition technology at the last meeting before the 2023 legislative session.
The committee has spent a significant portion of the transition period studying the technology and how it relates to the enhanced privacy rights of Montanaans. The committee heard from a wide range of stakeholders — from tech companies to law enforcement — about how the technology should be used in Montana and what, if any, sidebars should be in place.
Those in favor of using the technology spoke of its benefits for solving crime and making some government operations, such as obtaining driver licenses, more efficient, while critics raised concerns about privacy and government overreach.
While there was no consensus on legislation, committee members recognized the need for regulation of the technology and drafted two bills to restrict or ban the technology.
At last week’s meeting, Rep. R-Bigfork’s Mark Noland brought facial recognition tech ban bill to committee, where he filed a petition signed by 400 Montanaans in support of banning the tech in the state, ultimately working to get his draft bill out committee. However, the committee rejected a draft bill that would ban the use of facial recognition by state or local governments and law enforcement.
Nonetheless, committee members spoke about the need for a bill and said the issue would be raised again in the upcoming legislative session.
“I’m declining to vote today. But that doesn’t mean I have no intention of continuing my work. I will fully support progress on the facial recognition bill in the next session,” the Rep. said. Katie Sullivan, D-Missoula, tried unsuccessfully to legislate the technology during the 2021 session.
senator. Ken Bogner of R-Miles City has submitted a draft bill request to the legislature for changes to laws related to privacy and facial recognition technology.
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“I want to follow up on the committee work we’ve done in the public sector, but I’m also considering a private sector bill on consumer protection policy,” Bogner, chairman of the committee, said Monday.
Republican Senator Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton voted last week to support the ban, saying state agencies trying to use the technology must demonstrate to the legislature that it is necessary.
“I think it would be worthwhile for us to actually take the toughest bill out of this committee and then have people have to actually come in and justify…why do they need access or facial recognition when we’re in session, ‘ he said at a committee meeting last week.
For Vice-Chair representatives. Derek Harvey, D-Butte, the whole thing was rushed.
“When we discuss taking the committee bill out of the interim bill, we put our name on it … saying we did our due diligence and studied the bill and we are giving it our support, “He ended the week of meetings. “Today, we got a bunch of new information, and now we want to push a bill through. I have to stand with my constituents, I have to stand with law enforcement.”
The bill to ban the technology in the state was introduced by Noland, who has been an outspoken critic of the technology through this research.
“We have some God-given rights, and privacy is one of them, so in our constitution, we have privacy, we have protection,” he said.