Facial Recognition in Montana
Several Montana agencies have confirmed the use of facial recognition. But the full extent to which the technology is being used is still unclear.
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” – Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, 1928
During last month’s meeting, the Montana State Legislature’s Interim Committee on Economic Affairs discussed its plan for a study on the use of Facial Recognition Technology. Facial recognition technology is a method of verifying an individual’s identity by measuring unique facial features such as “distance between the eyes or shape of the chin” and then converts those measurements into unique biometric data, similar to a fingerprint. This verification process can be facilitated through photos, video, or in real time.
Federal, state, and local government agencies have begun widespread use of facial recognition. There is little to no oversight as to the use of this technology, creating a scenario in which the likelihood of abuse is nearly inevitable. While law enforcement officers need either a warrant or probable cause to secure an individual’s fingerprint (Hayes v. Florida), there are no protections for an individual’s unique biometric facial features.
In recent years, law enforcement have even begun to use facial recognition to scan social media accounts of law abiding citizens. Even those without social media are not safe from potential infringements as law enforcement agencies have been documented using footage in real time to identify and track people in public places.
Several Montana agencies have confirmed the use of facial recognition, however it is unclear the full extent to which the technology is being used. Kendall Cotton, Frontier Institute’s President and CEO, encouraged the interim committee to learn the extent to which the technology is being used by Montana agencies, for what purpose it is being used, how that data is stored, and how it is shared between agencies.
Nowhere to Go
- Bozeman’s housing crisis has gotten so bad that individuals who are unable to find a place to live have created a community of tents near Bozeman pond and Winco foods. The Bozeman Chronicle hashighlighted that most people in these communities have jobs but simply cannot afford the skyrocketing housing costs in Bozeman and the surrounding areas.
The City of Bozeman desperately needs to address its zoning requirements in order to allow for an increase in affordable housing. We agree with a recent audit’s finding that a major reason for the skyrocketing cost of housing is due to local zoning laws which limit the supply of housing, as well as increase the cost for new houses being built.
Montana Small Businesses Make a Comeback
- After businesses were forced to shut down during the pandemic, many small businesses decided to shut their doors permanently. As Montana continues to recover, a Simply Business article highlighted how small businesses are making a comeback across different states. Montana was rated 14th for “most new small business applications per capita” from August 2020 to July 2021.
While we are thrilled to see Montana entrepreneurs begin to thrive again, we recognize that there is still room for growth. One of the biggest barriers facing Montana small businesses is a burdensome regulatory system. One such example is the story of Levi and Brianne Cahoon, entrepreneurs who have faced seemingly insurmountable wait times by regulators for their small business. If Montana is to continue to be a leader in small business, further steps will need to be taken to eliminate unnecessary regulatory bottlenecks on Montana’s entrepreneurial innovators.
Telehealth & The Mental Health Crisis
- Rates of depression and anxiety soared throughout the pandemic, leading to a mental health crisis. To make matters worse, only 25% of the mental health needs of Americans are being met, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. The increased demand for mental health, along with a supply shortage of mental health professionals, led some states to temporarily waive telehealth restrictions. A recent study found that when telehealth exemptions were permitted, the number of patients using telehealth increased by 38 times pre-pandemic levels. Another study found that patients using telehealth saw significant improvements in their anxiety and depression after using a telehealth service.
It is not surprising that telehealth can achieve such significant improvements in mental health outcomes as patients have greater accessibility to provider services. With Montana being such a large and spread-out state, the need for telehealth for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety and depression is obvious, but there still remains a supply shortage of healthcare providers. This shortage of healthcare providers can only be addressed by allowing interstate telehealth in Montana, a proposal you can read here.