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New Montana Law Bans Warrantless Facial Recognition Surveillance

by Jordan Arizmendi

At the end of June 2023, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill, Senate Bill 397 (“SB397”) that will ban warrantless facial recognition surveillance, generally. According to the law, the exceptions that would permit a law enforcement agency to perform a facial recognition search include: if probable cause exists that an unknown individual in an image has committed a crime, is a victim of a crime, or is a witness to a serious crime; might be a local missing person; or if law enforcement needs to identify a corpse.

SB397 bans “the monitoring of public places or third-party image sets using facial recognition technology for facial identification to match faces with a prepopulated list of face images. The term includes but is not limited to scanning stored video footage to identify faces in the stored data, real-time scanning of video surveillance to identify passing by the cameras, and passively monitoring video footage using facial recognition technology for general surveillance purposes without a particularized suspicion of a specific target.”

As a result of SB397, law enforcement will need to get a warrant, before requesting a facial recognition search in the investigation of a serious crime. The lone exception to this requirement is if there is an imminent threat posed to an individual.   




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