NY Police Commissioner Defends the Use of Biometric Facial Recognition

NY Police Commissioner Defends the Use of Biometric Facial Recognition

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill has taken to the New York Times to try to dispel the public’s concerns about facial recognition technology. In the article, O’Neill details the NYPD’s operational procedures for the use of facial recognition, emphasizing that it is only a “limited and preliminary step” that informs a more rigorous police investigation.

According to O’Neill, if the department obtains video from a crime scene, it is sent to the Facial Identification Section of the Detective Bureau, which matches the video against a database that consists solely of arrest photos (rather than photos of the population at large). If they get a hit, the Bureau will then turn to social media and other open source images to narrow the search window and potentially verify the match.

O’Neill stressed that human oversight is a key component of the process, and that a facial recognition match is never sufficient for an arrest. He also touted the program’s results, which recorded 998 arrests after 1,851 matches based on 7,024 requests in 2018. The Commissioner went on to argue that facial recognition could reduce instances of mistaken identity, which was responsible for 71 percent of the documented false convictions recorded by the Innocence Project.

While the numbers are compelling, it may not be enough to win back public trust after it was revealed that the NYPD had been running a secret surveillance program with Chinese technology. New York has since been embroiled in other facial recognition controversies, including a disastrous MTA program and a contentious public school deployment.   

Source: The New York Times

June 11, 2019 – by Eric Weiss