By Rep. Michael Sylvia for The Liberty Block 

In a time of civil unrest over abuse of police powers, the New Hampshire House judiciary committee voted against a bill banning facial recognition systems by government employees and agencies. The committee essentially indicated that they support the use of facial recognition technology by police in New Hampshire. 

HB 1642, sponsored by Rep. Gary Hopper (R, Weare), would have placed a prohibition on the use of facial recognition systems by state and local officials. This bi-partisan bill was seen as a step toward building statutory provisions around the constitutional amendment adopted overwhelmingly in 2018:

“An individual’s right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.”

As this was the second committee for the bill, it had already passed the full House on a voice vote coming out of committee with an 18-2 margin of support.

This bill was supported by NH-ACLU. In remarks to the committee they noted; “Facial surveillance is the definition of governmental intrusion into our personal information.” Also supporting the bill, professor of law  Albert ‘Buzz’ Scherr, concludes; “Face recognition and surveillance technology may get to a place where it is reliable enough for use.  At that point, if not before, courts and this legislature will need to confront the constitutional privacy issues that such technology raises.  Until it becomes more reliable, and constitutional concerns are adequately addressed, New Hampshire should take the preventative measure of banning this technology through the enactment of HB 1642.”

It will come as no surprise that the bill was opposed by law enforcement who cited the positive aspects of deploying the technology such as ‘identifying missing children’. Of course, technology companies seeking the lucrative market associated with government use strongly opposed the bill.

In an unusual break from tradition, Democrats voted in opposition to their Chair and Vice chairwomen. On the Republican side, a strong majority opposed killing the bill. Why do New Hampshire Democrats support police use of facial recognition surveillance? 

Find and Contact your State Representatives and tell them not to empower police to spy on you.