According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), six U.S. federal agencies used biometric facial recognition software in their efforts to identify protesters who demonstrated in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May of 2020.
The agencies identified by the GAO report are the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
As The Hill reports, the GAO states the agencies that were identified used the biometric technology in order to “support criminal investigations related to civil unrest, riots, or protests” between May and August of last year, with all of the agencies saying the tech was used to search images “of individuals suspected of violating the law.”
The past year has seen the use of facial recognition technology come under intense scrutiny, with its use by law enforcement agencies placed under a particularly bright spotlight following a January 2020 story in The New York Times that revealed that startup Clearview AI had been scraping social media platforms for images and selling its facial recognition database to law enforcement agencies around the world.
Prior to that, a study released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) showed that a number of facial recognition algorithms show a clear racial bias, misidentifying people of color — especially women — far more often than they do middle-aged white men.
Both the NIST study and high-profile stories like Clearview AI’s have led to a number of bans, or at least restrictions, on the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Following the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the protests across the globe that it triggered, Amazon announced it would be placing a one-year moratorium on the sale of its Rekognition platform to law enforcement, while IBM altogether ended the sale of its own facial recognition to police.
Source: The Hill
July 6, 2020 — by Tony Bitzionis