A sheriff’s office in Minnesota may be compelled to publicly disclose how it uses biometric technology, depending on the outcome of a case before the state’s Supreme Court.
The suit was first filed by Tony Webster, a web developer and researcher, in 2015, and is backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a MuckRock campaign, with the ACLU also having submitted comment. Using a template provided by the EFF, Webster submitted a query for records pertaining to how the Hennepin County Sheriff Office was using biometric technology – a request that the office “basically ignored”, as the EFF tells it. That prompted Webster to sue, and the matter escalated.
As it now stands before Minnesota’s highest court, the case essentially hinges on whether such requests for information create an excessive burden on the county. If the court rules in Webster’s favor, the sheriff’s office will need to release emails pertaining to its use of biometric technology.
The case has already led to some revelations about the county’s use of the technology, which has so far reflected broader trends in the law enforcement sector – using facial recognition to identify criminals, for example. Of course, the issue at the center of the case is not so much what the sheriff’s office is doing with the technology, but what its obligations are with respect to public disclosure.
Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation
July 18, 2017 – by Alex Perala