Previously, we began looking at the topic of facial recognition technology and its increasing use in law enforcement. As we noted, the technology is used here in Florida. As the Georgetown report we mentioned last time makes clear, there are concerns with the use of the technology. For one thing, police have easy access to photo databases and often aren’t monitored to ensure there is no abuse.
Here in Florida, police and FBI officers are not required to have reasonable suspicion to run a facial recognition search, and searches are not audited for potential abuse by law enforcement agents. From a defense perspective, this is concerning, and not only because of the potential inaccuracies of the technology. Law enforcement could potentially use the technology to track criminal suspects on questionable bases, such as race, religion or political affiliation. They could also use the technology for purely personal purposes, violating individuals’ privacy.
The Georgetown report makes a number of recommendations to address these concerns, including: limiting searches to police photographs unless a warrant is obtained; eliminating innocent people from searches; and explicitly prohibiting tracking individuals on questionable bases. The report also raised concerns about using facial recognition software in conjunction with live video, which would allow police to continuously surveil individuals in real time, changing what it means to be in a public place. This is already being done by some police departments.
We will have to see, of course, how the legal system responds to the increasing use of facial recognition technology. It is not unlikely that legal challenges will be raised to its use, though, and this could certainly impact not only the way law enforcement is done, but also how facial recognition evidence is dealt with in the criminal process.