Last year, Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology reported on a FBI facial recognition database. The report found that as many as 117 million photos, or 50% of adults in the US, are in the database. Last week, a US House Committee met to review the status of facial recognition with the FBI.
Currently, 80% of the database are photos from drivers licenses or passports and are not crime related. It was determined that the system has a more difficult time identifying females and African Americans. Also, the FBI ran the program for years without first submitting a privacy impact assessment, which is required by law. These were among the most criticized facts as the House Committee called for stricter regulations.
“Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation,” said Jason Chaffetz, committee chair. “But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public.”
Chaffetz went on to say that “most concerning” was the ability of real time scanning of people walking down the street.
According to Kimberly Del Greco, Deputy Assistant Director for the FBI, said that the goal of the FACE (Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation) unit is to generate leads. This is done by “comparing the face images of persons associated with open assessments and active investigations against face images available in State and Federal FR systems”
Currently 18 states have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the FBI on sharing photos. The FBI will continue to pursue MOU with states that do not have laws in place prohibiting them.