ACLU calls for investigation of facial recognition technology

Posted at 12:19 PM, Oct 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 18:41:13-04

The ACLU is putting pressure on the Justice Department to investigate the use of facial recognition technology, which the group says disproportionately violates people of color.

The call comes after Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy & Technology released a report Tuesday saying police departments nationwide used the technology to track protest attendees, or those caught on surveillance cameras. The report finds that “existing deficiencies are likely to have a disparate impact on African Americans.”

“In Maryland, police throughout the state can run face recognition searches of over 7 million Maryland driver's license and ID photos, over 3 million Maryland arrest booking photos (mug shots), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Next Generation Identification (NGI) database of 24.9 million mug shots,” the ACLU said in a news release.

“Georgetown Law's report shows that use of Maryland's system has not been audited in the 5 years it has been active. No policy was provided in response to Georgetown's public records request, but a fact sheet on the system indicates that probable cause is required prior to a search."

The ACLU also raised questions about recent reports of Maryland police departments using a company called Geofeedia to monitor photos on social media, and use facial recognition to arrest protesters with outstanding warrants.

RELATED: ACLU says police used social media to monitor protestors and make arrests during Baltimore unrest

“Use of facial recognition in this context has obvious chilling effects on the exercise of First Amendment freedoms, particularly given the imperfections in both computer and human facial matching, which recent studies show have an error rate of 50 percent,” the group said.

Group members issued a letter signed by 52 civil rights organizations.

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