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