Facial-Recognition Tech May Turn Life Into A Perpetual Police Lineup

Combined with police body cameras, it could redefine the nature of public spaces.

(DEFENSE ONEPolice body cameras are widely seen as a way to improve law enforcement’s transparency with the public. But when mixed with police use of facial-recognition tools, the prospect of continual surveillance comes with big risks to privacy.

Facial-recognition technology combined with police body cameras could “redefine the nature of public spaces,” Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, told the House oversight committee at a hearing March 22. It’s not a distant reality and it threatens civil liberties, he warned.

Technologists already have tools, and are developing more, that allow police to recognize people in real time. Of 38 manufacturers who make 66 different products, at least nine already have facial recognition technology capabilities or have made accommodations to build it in, according to a 2016 Johns Hopkins University report, created for the Justice Department, on the body-worn camera market.

Rather than looking back retrospectively at footage, cops with cameras and this technology can scan people as they pass and assess who they are, where they’ve been, and whether they are wanted for anything from murder to a traffic ticket, with the aid of algorithms. This, say legal experts, puts everyone—even law-abiding citizens—under perpetual surveillance and suspicion.

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