Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Monday sent a letter to Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That, asking if the facial recognition-focused startup was willing to stop law enforcement agencies and other users from applying its technology to monitor peaceful protestors.
Markey’s letter comes in response to reports that law enforcement agencies in cities where protesters are speaking out against systemic racism and the killing of George Floyd have access to Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology.
The Senator expressed concern that the protesters could be implicated later in the future for participating in the protests which wouldn’t augur well for their right to peaceful assembly.
The Senator said use of the technology for profiling could lead to a violation of the First Amendment which gives the citizens the right to protest against racial injustice.
“As demonstrators across the country exercise their First Amendment rights by protesting racial injustice, it is important that law enforcement does not use technological tools to stifle free speech or endanger members of the public,” wrote the Senator in the letter.
The note is one of several sent by various lawmakers regarding how the government and police are applying technology in their response to ongoing, nationwide protests and unrest.
Most recently, several Democrats on Friday wrote to the Homeland Security Department’s acting secretary addressing the use of a Predator B drone to surveil protesters in Minneapolis.
Markey’s reaction to Clearview’s AI isn’t surprising as he reached out to them after the New York Times disclosed that the company developed an app that enabled its users to take a photograph of a person and then later view it publicly.
The company was alleged to have billions of pictures of individuals which law enforcement agencies had access to.
“I urge you to take every step necessary to ensure that your technology will not force Americans to choose between sacrificing their rights to privacy or remaining silent in the face of injustice,” added Markey in his letter.