Federal Law Enforcement Is Running Roughshod Over Facial Recognition Privacy, Says GAO
Out of the 86 federal agencies that employ full-time law enforcement officers, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed 42 of them about whether they either owned and/or used facial recognition technologies from outside suppliers. At the request of members of Congress, the GAO looked at how many agencies used the technology; why they used it; and how carefully the agencies tracked their employees’ use of the technology.
In the GAO report released yesterday, 20 agencies acknowledged that they did use facial recognition technology. Three owned internal systems, 12 used outside suppliers, and 5 both owned internal systems and used outside suppliers. The report found that 10 agencies used Clearview AI and 5 used its competitor, Vigilant Systems. Most of the agencies that acknowledged using facial recognition technology admitted to exercising little oversight of employee use of the technology and having no systems in place to protect privacy.
The report notes that the agencies generally used facial recognition for verification (matching a photo of an individual to another photo of the same person) and identification (comparing an unknown individual’s photo against a set of others to determine a potential match). For instance, the Federal Bureau of Prisons uses facial recognition to verify which of its 8,000 employees could access secure network operations centers at certain facilities. In addition, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses the technology to verify the identity of certain travelers entering and exiting the country. The GAO observes that the CBP has still not implemented its earlier recommendations for assuring the accuracy of that agency’s systems and establishing privacy protections for travelers’
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