Privacy Advocates Fight for Release of Police Records on Biometrics

Privacy rights advocates are battling the Hennepin County Sheriff Office in court over records pertaining to police authorities’ use of biometric identification technology.

Privacy Advocates Fight for Release of Police Records on BiometricsIt’s the result of an Electronic Frontier Foundation campaign to help concerned citizens file information requests from local government and law enforcement agencies. One participant, Tony Webster, sent such a request to Hennepin County, which encompasses the major urban center of Minneapolis, and the office’s resistance to providing the requested information led Webster to bring the matter to court.

Adjudicating the case, Administrative Law Judge Jim Mortensen decried the county’s “unexplained delays, improperly redacted records, inadequate answers and other behavior”, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, and ordered it to release the relevant emails by June 1st. Hennepin County appealed the ruling, of course, and the EFF has now teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to file an amicus brief with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

So far, what the litigants have discovered is not particularly unusual for those law enforcement organizations that have begun to leverage biometrics, with records indicating that facial recognition has been used to identify jail inmates, and that the County Sheriff’s Office is considering applying such technology to surveillance images and footage. But the legal battle is playing out at a time when calls for greater transparency and oversight regarding the use of biometric identification are getting serious media attention, with The New York Times and The Guardian reporting on a recent academic report that suggested half of all Americans have already been targeted by such technology.

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

October 21, 2016 – by Alex Perala