Rights groups urge Justice to investigate police use of face recognition

The Wisconsin Gazette

Fifty national civil rights, civil liberties, faith, and privacy organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department urging it to investigate the increasing use and impact of face recognition by police.

The letter, sent in partnership with the ACLU and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comes amid mounting evidence that the technology is violating the rights of millions of Americans and having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Also, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology has released a report finding that police departments across the country are frequently using face recognition technologies to identify and track individuals — whether crossing the street, captured on surveillance cameras, or attending protests.

The report highlights that existing deficiencies are likely to have a disparate impact on African-Americans.

“We need to stop the widespread use of face recognition technology by police until meaningful safeguards are in place,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “Half of all adults in the country are in government face recognition databases, yet the vast majority of law enforcement agencies using this technology lack clear policies, audits to ensure accuracy, and transparency.”

The letter, sent to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was signed by 50 diverse organizations.

The letter explains how federal, state and local police forces use driver license photos to identify suspects — without warrants, accuracy tests, or audits.

“This technology supercharges the racial bias that already exists in policing,” said Sakira Cook, counsel with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “For the good of the nation, we can’t afford to let these inherently biased systems operate without any safeguards.”