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'This Stuff Freaks Me Out': Rep. Rashida Tlaib Raises Alarm Over Use of Facial Recognition as Groups Demand Federal Moratorium

"You should be freaked out too. The inaccuracy and threat to our privacy is real."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) asks questions during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on February 27, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Before detailing her specific concerns about facial recognition technology during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the subject Tuesday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib expressed a sentiment broadly shared by privacy advocates and the general public.

"This stuff freaks me out," said Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan. "I'm a little freaked out by facial recognition."

Tlaib's remarks came during the Oversight Committee's second hearing this year on facial recognition technology as lawmakers grapple with how the software should be regulated—or if it should be used at all.

"You should be freaked out too," Tlaib tweeted. "The inaccuracy and threat to our privacy is real. The second Oversight hearing on facial recognition technology reveals just how bad this is for all of us."

As Common Dreams has reported in April, law enforcement agencies are increasingly using facial recognition technology at border crossings and major airports throughout the United States, raising serious concerns among civil liberties groups.

In a letter to the House Oversight Committee ahead of Tuesday's hearing, a coalition of over 60 groups led by the ACLU called for a "federal moratorium on face recognition for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes."

"Face recognition gives government agencies the unprecedented power to track who we are, where we go, and who we know," the letter reads. "This capability threatens to create a world where people are watched and identified as they attend a protest, congregate outside a place of worship, visit a medical provider, or simply go about their daily lives."

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Concerns over the threat facial recognition poses to privacy rights were echoed by lawmakers during Tuesday's hearing.

"In the Fourth Amendment, our Founding Fathers endowed with us 'the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures,'" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said before questioning officials from the TSA and FBI over the use of facial recognition technology at airports, protests, and elsewhere.

When Ocasio-Cortez asked TSA official Austin Gould whether individuals must provide "explicit consent" before their faces are scanned at airports, Gould said, "Passengers have the opportunity to not participate."

As digital rights group Fight for the Future pointed out, this "means JetBlue, Delta, and others can record your face without your explicit consent."

Watch Ocasio-Cortez's full five minutes of questioning:

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