According to a new study, 117 million Americans have their faces stored in facial recognition databases used by law enforcement with little, to no regulations. The study, The Perpetual Line-Up, is a 150-page report that documents a huge cobbled-together network of facial recognition systems that are being used by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The way in which the agencies are able to use the stored data has little regulations and few legal standards established. Some of the databases use mug shots, while others use driver’s license pictures; and in some states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania, the databases use a combination of the two.
This is particularly troubling for the Black community because according to the study, Black people are far more likely than other racial groups to have their picture taken, analyzed, and reviewed for potential crime suspects during a computerized search. This is now becoming a totally new way of racially profiling the Black population. This study points to a very troubling trend because other studies have shown that Blacks are far more likely to be falsely arrested and have their mug shots taken, which is one of the main ways that these images wind-up in police databases. The report pointed out that criminal databases are rarely ever purged of people that were deemed innocent, the databases are not checked for accuracy, and it has been shown that the systems have a harder time distinguishing between darker-skinned faces.
The study was made public by the Center for Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University’s School of Law. The school’s executive director of the law center, Alvaro M. Bedoya, proclaimed “This is a serious problem, and no one is working to fix it.” The Government Accountability Office reported in May 2106, that the FBI had access to 412 million facial recognition images they were able to use for searches, with many of the faces in the searches appearing several times. In addition to the federal government having access to these databases, several other law enforcement agencies have expressed an interest in real-time facial-recognition technology. Some of the departments that are using facial recognition technology are the Baltimore PD during the Freddie Gray protest, the Virginia State Police who are able to search a mug-shot database with 1.2 million images, and the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff’s department who uploaded the entire government of Honduras’ driver’s-license and mug-shot database.