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Use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement raises privacy, constitutional concerns, P.2

In our last post, we began looking at the use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement, and particularly at concerns raised by a recent report from Georgetown University. As we mentioned last time, 16 states currently allow the use of facial recognition technology in some form, and Florida is among them.

Here in Florida, police are able to conduct facial recognition searches of 22 million driver’s license and ID photographs, over 11 million mug shots and other photos, as well as 24.9 million mug shots in the FBI database. FBI field officers in this state are able to search the Pinellas County database, including license and ID photos. Neither police officers nor FBI agents are required to have reasonable suspicion to conduct a database search, and they make liberal use of this technology. Florida’s database, according to the report, is searched 8,000 times per month.

Surprisingly, searches of the Florida database apparently receive no auditing for misuse. This is concerning, because the technology could potentially be used to track individuals on questionable bases. If the technology is developed to the point where it could be implemented with live video and database screening, it could give law enforcement significant power over individuals.

The report made several suggestions to ensure law enforcement does not abuse the technology. These include: limited use of the databases to police photographs; eliminating innocent individuals from searches; requiring search warrants for searches of driver’s licenses and ID photos and limiting such searches only to serious crimes; as well as explicitly prohibiting use of the technology to track individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation.

It remains to be seen how whether the technology will prompt constitutional challenges in the criminal process, but it is not unlikely. We’ll explore this issue further in a future post. 

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