July 08, 2021

Rep. Takano Statement on Second Installment of GAO Report on the Use of Forensic Algorithms by Law Enforcement

Riverside, CA – Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released this statement following the release of part two of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the use of forensic algorithms by law enforcement. The report titled, “Forensic Technology: Algorithms Strengthen Forensic Analysis, but Several Factors Can Affect Outcomes,” provides an assessment on the use of forensic algorithms and gives policy recommendations to help address challenges with the use of forensic algorithms. The first installment of this GAO report titled, “Forensic Technology: Algorithms Used in Federal Law Enforcement,” was released in May 2020. 

“Forensic algorithms are increasingly being used in our criminal justice system, but questions still remain about how they work and what standards they have to adhere to,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “This GAO study helps us better understand how this technology is being utilized by law enforcement, and it also points to the need for greater transparency and standards. It provides more background about forensic algorithms and potential discrepancies in their use, but it does not address why the trade secrets of the forensic algorithm developers prevent defendants’ from cross examining evidence against them. When technological innovations enter our criminal justice system, we must ensure that they don’t undermine defendants’ rights. That’s why I introduced the Justice in Forensic Algorithms Act, which would open the black box of forensic algorithms and establish testing standards that will safeguard our Constitutional right to a fair trial. The GAO made clear in this report the need for standards and transparency – passing the Justice in Forensic Algorithms Act would be a way to achieve that.”

Background on the legislation:

The Justice in Forensic Algorithms Act opens the black box of forensic algorithms by:

  • Prohibiting the use of trade secrets privileges to prevent defense access to source code and other information about software used to process, analyze, and interpret evidence in criminal proceedings;
  • Directing the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish both Computational Forensic Algorithm Testing Standards and a Computational Forensic Algorithm Testing Program; and
  • Requiring Federal law enforcement to comply with standards and testing requirements in their use of forensic algorithms