Washington Senate approves consumer-privacy bill to place restrictions on facial recognition

OLYMPIA — In a broad bipartisan vote, Washington state senators have approved a bill to create a European-style consumer-data privacy law and restrict some uses of facial recognition.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voted 46 to 1 to pass Senate Bill 5376. Sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, it would allow citizens to know what information data companies are gathering on them.

Those corporations could range from global behemoths, like Facebook and Microsoft, to retail stores and largely invisible data brokers.

The proposal would also allow people to have inaccurate data corrected. In some instances, citizens could request that companies delete pieces of information.

“We have an expectation and a right to privacy in the public square, as well as our homes,” said Carlyle in a Senate floor speech. He later compared his bill to a credit report.

“Think about your credit report, where you can check in and understand who’s been accessing it, and why, and to make corrections,” he said.

SB 5376 would also restrict certain uses of facial-recognition programs by companies and law enforcement.

Companies using facial recognition in order to profile people in places open to the public — such as retail stores — must get consent from consumers.

State and local governments would not be allowed to use facial recognition for “ongoing surveillance of specified individuals in public spaces” unless it is to support law enforcement because of a court order or emergency situation.

Violations of the bill’s regulations would be enforced under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

SB 5376 now goes to the House for consideration in that chamber.

Joseph O’Sullivan: 360-236-8268 or josullivan@seattletimes.com. . Seattle Times staff reporter Joseph O’Sullivan covers state government and the Legislature.