Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists with Fight for the Future took to Capitol Hill in the U.S. on Thursday to demonstrate to lawmakers, lobbyists, and journalists exactly why stronger restrictions are needed on facial recognition software. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

Activists with Fight for the Future took to Capitol Hill in the U.S. on Thursday to demonstrate to lawmakers, lobbyists, and journalists exactly why stronger restrictions are needed on facial recognition software. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

'This Should Probably Be Illegal': Rights Advocates Target Lawmakers and Lobbyists With Facial Recognition Technology in US Capitol

"It's terrifyingly easy for anyone—a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker—to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale. We did this to make a point."

Jon Queally

To demonstrate exactly why tougher restrictions—including a ban for government agencies—should be placed on facial recognition technology, digital privacy rights advocates Thursday morning showed up on Capitol Hill to deploy the controversial technology against lawmakers, corporate lobbyists, and even members of the press.

"This should probably be illegal," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, the group behind the effort, in a statement. And that's the point.

"Until Congress takes action to ban facial recognition surveillance," Greer said, "it's terrifyingly easy for anyone—a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker—to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale."

The group is using the commercially available Rekognition software, made by Amazon, to scan the faces of thousands of people walking by in Washington, D.C. and then cross-checking those faces with a database to "track down" their possible identities. Part of their "Ban Facial Recognition" demand, Fight for the Future noted that a wide coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups—including Greenpeace, Color of Change, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, and many others—have endorsed their campaign.

As of this writing, according to the ScanCongress.com website, the activists have already scanned the faces of 9,240 people.

Watch a livestream of the activists as they gather the images:

"Several cities have already banned the controversial technology outright, including  San Francisco, Somerville, MA, Berkeley, CA, and Oakland, CA," the group noted in a statement, "and there is growing bipartisan support in Congress to address the issue at the federal level.

Greer said she and other activists are scanning people in the nation's capital city to make a very specific point. "We need an immediate ban on law enforcement and government use of face surveillance," she said, "and should urgently and severely limit its use for private and commercial purposes."

After the protest, the group said it will release a web tool on ScanCongress.com to allow people who were in the D.C. area on Thursday to upload a photo and check whether their face was scanned. Within two weeks, they said, all the data will be destroyed.

"We're going to delete the data that we collect," Greer said. Other people or agencies, however, she warned "could use the same technology to do unimaginable harm."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·


Anti-War Veterans Group Asks Biden to 'Read Our Nuclear Posture Review Before Releasing Yours'

"Are you willing to risk a civilization-ending apocalypse by playing nuclear chicken with other nuclear-armed nations? Or will you lead us toward a planet that is free of nuclear weapons?"

Jessica Corbett ·


'Big Win' for Public Lands and Climate as US Judge Reinstates Coal Lease Ban

"It's past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo