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Articles Tagged with facial recognition

For the last seven years, the police in the city of San Diego made use of facial recognition technology through a network of 1,300 mobile cameras. The information compiled was successful in developing a database of 65,500 face scans. As of December 31, 2019, though, the California legislature put a stop to the use of the technology. A three-year ban was enacted against the use of mobile facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The ban came at the frustration of the police, but privacy advocates saw it as a win. 

Unfortunately, determining the effectiveness of the technology is not simple or easy. San Diego law enforcement agencies did not keep track of the results associated with the facial recognition initiative. According to the city’s police spokesperson, it is not known that there were arrests or prosecutions as a result of using the technology.

What is the Tactical Identification System (TACIDS)?

In 2012 the TACIDS was put into place without a public hearing or public notice. The software behind the system worked by focusing on unique identifiers via patterns and textures on the face to compare with a database of over 1.8 million mugshots. In less than two seconds the software can compare the traits to find matches with the images collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office.

FaceFirst supplied the software to law enforcement agencies. There were 30 agencies as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement who used TACIDS. Out of all the agencies that had access to the software, law enforcement in San Diego made the most use of it. The large police department used it frequently. The newly developed Neighborhood Policing Division which began in 2018 was easily behind the department’s high rate of use. This division was a response to the rising homeless population in the city. The technology was given to officers so that they could identify homeless individuals who often do not carry identification.

How Did the Ban on TACIDS Come About?

Privacy advocates had major concerns with the facial recognition technology, and increased pressure on lawmakers motivated them to put the ban in place. The American Civil Liberties Union tested the software and found that it had flaws. They found a 20% failure rate for matching individuals and the majority of those that were mistaken were with individuals of color. Community leaders argued that the technology violated people’s civil liberties. Lawmakers listening to these concerns agreed that there are problems with the way surveillance capabilities are utilized. Continue reading

In mid-June 2018, in a small town in Maryland, the police used a facial recognition program to identify and track down a robbery suspect. Investigators fed an Instagram photo of the suspect into the state’s vast facial recognition system and a match was made. Within minutes the Instagram photo was matched with the robbery suspect’s drivers’ license photo and the suspect’s drivers’ license popped up, providing law enforcement with the suspect’s name and address within minutes.

Increasingly, police departments across the country are using facial recognition programs to solve crimes. The prevalence of smartphone with video capabilities, the SMART connections in homes, and video cameras in private homes and public streets provide constant surveillance. Since these devices capture all activities, now more than ever, crime scenes are full of digital evidence of conversations and actions recorded.

The image of a suspect alone is not enough to identify him or her. In the past, police department released photo of suspect asking the public to provide tips to identify him or her on the news or on their websites. Now, with the image from the crime scene itself, the police can bypass the public completely, and through something as ubiquitous as an Instagram photo, identify the suspect by matching his photos with the state’s facial recognition program.

31 states, including California, use facial recognition programs to identify suspects by running photo of them against the state’s drivers’ license system photos. The technology is so advanced that not too far down the road will be a way to run the check right from a police officer’s body camera, real time, as a suspect is apprehended and taken into custody. Amazon’s Rekognition program, is one such facial recognition program used in California to assist collection of evidence in law enforcement investigations.

Although the use of these technologies raise all kinds of privacy concerns, the benefit to law enforcement, is difficult to discount if a crime is in progress or the identity of the suspect is unknown to investigators. Continue reading

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