Government Use of Facial Recognition Deepens in New York

Government Use of Facial Recognition Deepens in New YorkGovernment use of facial recognition technology is on the rise in New York, and so far there has been little public discussion about it.

One of the most impactful uses of the technology has been in the New York Police Department’s investigations. The NYPD has actually established its own facial identification unit, comprised of five detectives, which has used facial recognition to solve crimes; so far the technology has helped the unit to make 900 arrests, with only five individuals misidentified.

Meanwhile, the Department of Motor Vehicles is using the technology to prevent fraud. Officials with that agency suggest the technology has helped to identify 14,500 cases of attempted fraud, leading to 3,500 arrests.

These are tangible benefits, but they have intangible costs in terms of privacy, and some advocates are worried about the lack of public dialogue on this issue. In an NBC New York article by Pei-Sze Cheng, a legal advisor for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program asserts that “we haven’t really had that discussion and the technology is being used without any rules or protections in place, both in the government sector and in the private sector”, adding, “That can lead to serious abuse.”

The tension is likely to get more pronounced going forward. Just last week, a cross-industry group seeking to establish voluntary privacy standards for businesses using biometric technology fell apart as privacy advocates walked out en masse over objections that the business interests were not cooperating in good faith. And recently, city workers in San Francisco staged disruptive protests upon learning they would be subject to biometric attendance tracking. These relatively minor troubles point to a larger, looming conflict as more businesses and governments use biometric technology on citizens.

Source: NBC New York

June 24, 2015 – by Peter B. Counter