If you live in New York, you may have even more reason to wear your face mask these days. Despite growing concerns over the untrustworthiness of the technology and outcry over its misuse, law enforcement agencies continue to use facial recognition software to identify and track those suspected of committing crimes. Unfortunately, the flaws in the technology too often lead to mistakes, wrongful arrests and violations of civil rights.
Many cities in other states have banned the use of facial recognition, and others have placed restrictions of various levels on its use by law enforcement. In many cases, those restrictions limit the use of this unreliable technology only to solving violent crimes, terrorist attacks and other heinous acts. You may be shocked to learn that New York police seem to be turning to facial recognition for help locating those believed to be involved in minor offenses, such as shoplifting and vandalism.
With facial recognition, police can take a grainy still shot from a surveillance video and run searches that may return matches of driver’s license photos of ordinary citizens who may have only a few similar traits, if any. Law enforcement agencies have allegedly even altered blurry photos, substituted pictures of doppelgangers or celebrity look-alikes, or input drawings from police sketch artists.
In one police district, facial recognition identified the wrong person 96% of the time, resulting in many wrongful arrests. Almost all of the uses of facial recognition involved Black suspects. If you happen to be targeted by police, you may not even realize they have used facial recognition technology to find you, and they may not include that information in their arrest report.
With almost no federal regulations, the risk is that facial recognition may become what amounts to a nationwide surveillance system. Civil liberties advocates worry that your right to peacefully gather, to protest or to remain a private citizen may be at risk if police use facial recognition to track you down and identify you, perhaps even wrongly charging you with a crime.
Even though certain manufacturers of the technology have protested the use of their products for police work, others refuse to take responsibility for how their customers use the technology.
This seems to be another case of the law catching up with technology, leaving the courts with few options when police overstep the line and misuse facial recognition technology. Nevertheless, those who find themselves wrongfully arrested based on a facial recognition mistake may agree that addressing this issue is long overdue.
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