A civil rights advocacy group is putting a spotlight on police use of biometric technology. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s main line of inquiry revolves around public records requests, mostly with respect to the San Diego Police Department.
In a blog post, EFF researcher Dave Maass explains that recent media stories about police using biometric recognition systems on non-consenting criminal suspects are cause for concern, citing a particular recent incident involving the use of facial recognition technology by the SDPD. Two years ago, EFF was able to use public records to document the San Diego Association of Governments’ pilot program for a facial recognition program called Tactical Identification System, or TACIDS, and while at the time there was at least a nominal requirement for police to obtain consent before using the technology, the latest policy appears to abandon any concern about the issue of consent. EFF is now filing public records requests to get more information, along with other requests relating to other programs around the country.
The EFF’s concern and its resulting investigative efforts reflects one end of a broader, intensifying debate over the use of biometric technology. In the US, some legislators have been very vocal about their concerns, while others are trying to look into the advantages the technology has to offer; while in the business world, various interests have been meeting to try to find voluntary standards for the use of biometrics in consumer applications, though the process has been disrupted somewhat by privacy advocates’ exit in protest. EFF was among those protesters, who together argued that business interests would not concede to the minimal standard of obtaining consent before using biometric identification – which appears to be the same issue of concern to EFF in police forces’ use of the technology, too.
August 14, 2015 – by Alex Perala