In this Feb. 22, 2019, photo, Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Talbot demonstrates how his agency used facial recognition software to help solve a crime at their headquarters in Hillsboro, Oregon. Credit: Gillian Flaccus / AP

AUGUSTA — A proposal for Maine to require statewide regulations on the use of facial recognition by police and other agencies has cleared its first hurdle in the state Legislature.

It was unanimously approved by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last month, and received initial approval in both chambers of the Legislature. Further votes are needed.

While some states have regulated facial recognition as a surveillance tool, Maine would be the first state to regulate the technology by law enforcement statewide, the bill’s advocates say.

Michael Kebede from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said the bill is about “protecting democracy itself.”

“Unregulated, facial recognition leaves Mainers open to unprecedented surveillance and threatens core constitutional rights of privacy, expression and assembly,” he said.

The proposal sponsored by Rep. Grayson Lookner, D-Portland, would allow for the use of such digital technology in the investigation of only the most serious crimes like rape and murder.

“This act ensures Maine will be a leader on protecting public safety and privacy rights well into the future,” Lookner said.