Photographs of nearly half of all U.S. adults -- 117 million people -- are collected in police facial recognition databases across the country with little regulation over how the networks are searched and used, according to a new study. Along with a lack of regulation, critics question the accuracy of facial recognition algorithms. Meanwhile, state, city, and federal facial recognition databases include 48 percent of U.S. adults, said the report from the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law. The search of facial recognition databases is largely unregulated, the report said. "A few agencies have instituted meaningful protections to prevent the misuse of the technology," its authors wrote.
The FBI maintains a huge database of more than 411m photos culled from sources including driver's licenses, passport applications and visa applications, which it cross-references with photos of criminal suspects using largely untested and questionably accurate facial recognition software. A study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on Wednesday for the first time revealed the extent of the program, which had been queried several years before through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The GAO, a watchdog office internal to the US federal government, found that the FBI did not appropriately disclose the database's impact on public privacy until it audited the bureau in May. The office recommended that the attorney general determine why the FBI did not obey the disclosure requirements, and that it conduct accuracy tests to determine whether the software is correctly cross-referencing driver's licenses and passport photos with images of criminal suspects. The Department of Justice "disagreed" with three of the GAO's six recommendations, according to the office, which affirmed their validity.
In many cases, federal agents can request access to state DMV records by filling out a form. This is an example of a Homeland Security request that was made to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles in 2017. In many cases, federal agents can request access to state DMV records by filling out a form. This is an example of a Homeland Security request that was made to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles in 2017. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents mine millions of driver's license photos for possible facial recognition matches -- and some of those efforts target undocumented immigrants who have legally obtained driver's licenses, according to researchers at Georgetown University Law Center, which obtained documents related to the searches.
American law enforcement agencies have created a massive facial recognition database. If you're an adult in the US, you might already be in it. According to a comprehensive report by the Center for Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, the law enforcement's database has 117 million American adults on file. The report says authorities used driver's license IDs from 26 states to build the database, which includes people who've never committed any kind of crime before. That's already a problem in and of itself, but it's compounded by the lack of oversight on how it's used.
If you're reading this in the United States, there's a 50 percent chance that a photo of your face is in at least one database used in police facial-recognition systems. Police departments in nearly half of U.S. states can use facial-recognition software to compare surveillance images with databases of ID photos or mugshots. Some departments only use facial-recognition to confirm the identity of a suspect who's been detained; others continuously analyze footage from surveillance cameras to determine exactly who is walking by at any particular moment. Altogether, more than 117 million American adults are subject to face-scanning systems. These findings were published Tuesday in a report from Georgetown Law's Center for Privacy and Technology.