San Diego police have been expanding their use of biometric technology in investigations.
The main modality in play is facial recognition. San Diego county police officers use mobile devices such as tablets to take snapshots of criminal suspects, and then facial recognition software is used to match those suspects against the county’s criminal mugshot database. According to a CBS 8 report, the number of devices equipped with such facial recognition technology is up from under 200 last year to 418 at present.
For some observers, the trend is worrisome. Speaking to CBS 8, a researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy rights advocacy group, expressed concern that the practice infringes on citizens’ rights, noting that suspects’ mugshots are uploaded into the county’s criminal database and stored there even if they are ultimately cleared of suspicion. He also expressed concern that biometrics could be used for more intrusive surveillance of citizens in the future.
It isn’t just police use of facial recognition that is raising concerns; there was also some consternation this past summer over a San Diego school district’s introduction of iPads using facial recognition as a password replacement – a program that was ultimately scrapped. Officials cited costs at the time, but the backlash from concerned parents may also have been a factor.
Such concerns notwithstanding, police appear to be enthusiastic about the technology, arguing that it is a great aid in identifying suspects in the field. Their increasing use of the technology mirrors trends across all of California, and indeed elsewhere in the world, with police at various levels attesting to the technology’s benefits.
Source: CBS 8
November 26, 2015 – by Alex Perala