Lawmaker wants limits on AI use in arrests

Lawmaker wants limits on AI use in arrests

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is proposing limits on how law enforcement agencies can use artificial intelligence and facial recognition to make arrests.

A draft bill from Orr, which he plans to file in the legislative session that starts Feb. 2, says “a state or local law enforcement agency may not use the results of artificial intelligence or a facial recognition service as the sole basis to establish probable cause in a criminal investigation or to make an arrest.” The results of a facial recognition service may be used only in conjunction with other information and evidence lawfully obtained by a law enforcement officer to establish probable cause in a criminal investigation or to make an arrest.

Orr said his bill is not based on a particular issue or incident in Alabama, but reports nationally that artificial intelligence misidentifies racial minorities at a higher rate than it does white people and the arrest of the wrong man based on AI.

A federal report late last year said Asians and African Americans were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white men by facial-recognition systems, depending on the particular algorithm and type of search. Native Americans had the highest false-positive rate of all ethnicities, according to the study, which found that systems varied widely in their accuracy.

“The idea that somebody would be misidentified by a computer based on the color of their skin and the computer’s inability to adequately discern who that person is, it just doesn’t sit well,” Orr told Alabama Daily News. 

Even if later found innocent, having an arrest on their record can seriously and negatively impact an individual, Orr said. He said his bill requires more than an AI identification to arrest someone.

“You’ve got to have more than that,” Orr said.  “…You can’t use it as the definitive source for probable cause to go arrest somebody and then they’ve got a record.”

Orr’s bill would also prohibit state or local law enforcement agencies from using artificial intelligence or a facial recognition service to engage in ongoing surveillance except for in certain circumstances.

According to a statement from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, its policy is that results of a facial recognition service may not be used alone but only in conjunction with other information and evidence lawfully obtained by a law enforcement officer to establish probable cause in a criminal investigation or to make an arrest.

Washington state earlier this year became the first state to curb law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, Reuters reported.

The governor of Massachusetts recently vetoed a blanket ban on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement and some advocate for its legitimate use by law enforcement.

Washington’s law requires government agencies to obtain a warrant to run facial recognition scans, except in case of emergency. The software used must have a way to be independently tested for “accuracy and unfair performance differences” across skin tone, gender, age and other characteristics, according to the legislation, which applies to all public agencies in the state, the news agency reported.

Lawmakers in Hawaii and New York have proposed bills prohibiting arrests made only on artificial intelligence data, but they did not pass.  

In 2019, Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, sponsored a resolution to create the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence and Associated Technologies. Waggoner said he was especially interested in preparing Alabama’s students for careers in the emerging technology.

Waggoner on Wednesday said the commission met several times last year and included educators and representatives from the health care industry.

“There was a huge amount of interest,” he said.

Waggoner said he will likely bring a bill in the 2021 session to create a permanent council on artificial intelligence to study its implications on the state and its industries.