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Misuse of Personal Data and Biometrics

WHEREAS, the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons; and

WHEREAS, personal data includes all data which is able to identify a person, from their name, to their IP address, to their face. Major companies have access to so much personal data that they are able to survey the whole economy. Google can see what people search for, Facebook can see what people like and share, and Amazon can see what people are browsing and ultimately buying; and

WHEREAS, personal data is the newest, most valuable commodity, which is collected and sold by companies. Companies are now selling their technology to public bodies, particularly biometric identifying technology. There is an increase in the use of biometric data by federal, state and municipal bodies as biometric identifiers increase in sophistication. These biometric identifiers are attractive to public bodies as the identifiers are becoming increasingly more accurate. However, the technology that is currently being used processes darker skin differently from skin of other complexions, and may inherently be biased; and

WHEREAS, personal data has been used in advertising. This is because data is usually given freely by users on social media. For example, Facebook users may freely give their age, education level and their various interests; and

WHEREAS, Facebook could collect users browsing history, allowing Facebook to build profiles on their users. Companies are then able to pay Facebook to advertise their products to people they believe may be interested in their product; and

WHEREAS, however, personal data has not only been used in advertising products but also in politics. Cambridge Analytica, a company used by political campaigns, harvested the data of over 50 million Facebook users to build a software program to predict and influence political choices. Although Facebook knew of the data breach, they did not secure the information; and

WHEREAS, some companies use a different type of biometric data called facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology allows the automatic identification of an individual by matching two or more faces from digital images. This is done by detecting and measuring various facial features from the image and comparing them with features taken from other faces. Facial recognition technology usually gathers facial images through the internet, social media and CCTV footage; and

WHEREAS, unlike other forms of biometric data such as fingerprints or DNA, facial images are easy to collect, there could be multiple images of a person over a long period of time, and many people are unaware of their collection. Companies such as Clearview collect facial images from social media platforms, and these images remain on Clearview servers long after they are removed from the social media platforms. These images are then shared with potential law enforcement agencies that have access to over more than three billion photographs. Although Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have all sent cease-and-desist letters to Clearview, it has not stopped collecting the images. Further, Apple uses facial recognition technology as a method of unlocking phones. Amazon sells their facial recognition technology, Recognition, to law enforcement agencies; and

WHEREAS, there is no current federal legislation regulating how companies and public entities use, collect, disclose and sell personal data. Many state legislatures have considered bills on privacy, with two states enacting privacy laws — Nevada and California. Further, there is also no current federal legislation that bans the use of biometric identifiers. Three states (California, Oregon and New Hampshire) have limited the use of facial recognition technology through legislation that prohibits police officers' use facial recognition technology in their body cameras; and

WHEREAS, the small number of state laws that have been enacted have focused on the impact that biometric identifiers have on civil liberties at large, including the potential of biometric data to exacerbate racial injustice; and

WHEREAS, as biometric data is becoming increasingly more accurate, there are discrepancies. For example, facial recognition technology has higher error rates for Black women and men. Depending on the particular algorithm and type of search, African Americans were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than White men — with the study comparing different races and genders, resulting in White men having the highest accuracy score; and

WHEREAS, these bias results could ultimately lead to discrimination. The lack of accuracy will lead to more false positives, which increases the likelihood of Black people being stopped by law enforcement for no reason at all. Black and Hispanic drivers are stopped more often than White drivers without factoring in the use of biometrics. Thus, facial recognition will undoubtedly intensify an already existing bias in law enforcement; and

WHEREAS, with no statutory language limiting the use of biometric identifiers, the technology is being used by law enforcement in ways that can lead to misidentification of African Americans.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP demand that Congress, state legislatures and municipalities enact policies against the collection and sale of personal data by companies without affirmative, opt-in consent; ban targeted political advertising based on personal information unless they have explicit consent; ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement; and propose a regulatory system for public bodies to use biometric identifiers which are non-biased, accurate and balance democratic values with security concerns.