Summary Of The Gao Report On Federal Use Of Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition works by capturing raw images, identifying a face, and matching the facial features with a picture in a database. Inaccuracies may occur if the individual has undergone dramatic changes in appearance, or if certain elements of the photo confuse the identification algorithm. Facial recognition systems are built on computer programs that analyze images of human faces for the purpose of identifying them.

face recognition technology

“When we looked at routes that people would have walked to get to and from protests from nearby subway stations, we found nearly total surveillance coverage by publicly-owned CCTV cameras, mostly NYPD Argus cameras,” Mahmoudi said. Along with the research, Amnesty International also created a new interactive website that details potential FRT exposure. Users can see how much of any walking route between two locations in New York City might involve face recognition surveillance. Robert Boyce, retired chief of detectives at the NYPD, said the department has stringent guidelines for using face recognition technology. No one is allowed to use the technology without a case number and approval from a supervisor, he said.

There are few measures in place to protect everyday Americans from the misuse of face recognition technology. In general, agencies do not require warrants, and many do not even require law enforcement to suspect someone of committing a crime before using face recognition to identify them. Face recognition data is easy for law enforcement to collect and hard for members of the public to avoid. Faces are in public all of the time, but unlike passwords, people can’t easily change their faces.

The biggest danger is that this technology will be used for general, suspicionless surveillance systems. “In the cases where facial recognition tools were used, it would be where there was an assault on a police officer or serious property damage, whether it was a viable image to run against mug shots.” Once the system collects the raw images, the software either aligns or normalizes the data to refine the images on a granular level. The refinement techniques include resizing and adjusting the face so that the software can extract the most identifiable and unique features.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act requires notice and consent before the private use of face recognition tech. Face recognition data is often derived from mugshot images, which are taken upon arrest, before a judge ever has a chance to determine guilt or innocence. Mugshot photos are often never removed from the database, even if the arrestee has never had charges brought against them. Mobile face recognition allows officers to use smartphones, tablets or other portable devices to take a photo of a driver or pedestrian in the field and immediately compare that photo against one or more face recognition databases to attempt an identification. But face recognition data can be prone to error, which can implicate people for crimes they haven’t committed. Facial recognition software is particularly bad at recognizing African Americans and other ethnic minorities, women, and young people, often misidentifying or failing to identify them, disparately impacting certain groups.

It has designed systems for state DMVs, federal and state law enforcement agencies, border control and airports , and the state department. Other common vendors include 3M, Cognitec, DataWorks Plus, Dynamic Imaging Systems, FaceFirst, and NEC Global. Supporting these uses of face reconition are scores of databases at the local, state and federal level.

More Facial Recognition Technology Reported In Non

Likewise, it did not review FRT use by independent regulatory agencies that have investigative and enforcement responsibilities, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. FBI also has a team of employees dedicated just to face recognition searches called Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation (“FACE”) Services. The FBI can access over 400-million non-criminal photos from state DMVs and the State Department, and 16 U.S. states allow FACE access to driver’s license and ID photos. For example, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida may have one of the largest local face analysis databases. According to research from Georgetown University, the database is searched about 8,000 times a month by more than 240 agencies.

face recognition technology

Women facial recognitionFacial recognition can be applied as a fully automated system or as a semi-automated system. A fully automated system requires no human interaction to make the final verification or identification decision. Conversely, in semi-automated systems, user input confirms the computer’s decisions to ensure accuracy.

However, activists worry that invasive surveillance and face recognition technology threaten individual privacy and disproportionately target and harm Black and brown communities. The research found that the areas heavily populated with CCTV cameras proved to be at greater risk of stop-and-frisk practices by police. In 2019, 59% of those stopped by police as part of stop and frisk were Black and 29% were Latino, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which cited NYPD data. In a conversation about face recognition technology, New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller told ABC News that the victims of violent crime in the city are “overwhelmingly” people of color. Facial recognition technology relies on the unique, genetically-determined physical features of the face to accurately identify a person.

Digital access, domestic law enforcement, and physical security are the most prevalent federal uses of facial recognition technology, with the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Justice owning two-thirds of federal facial recognition systems. The government is building databases internally, utilizing commercial software, and partnering with state and local authorities to conduct facial recognition searches. Ten federal agencies worked on FRT-related research and development in fiscal year 2020.

How Law Enforcement Uses Face Recognition

The computer applies this generated shape as a model to a 3D surface to compensate for any issues met by 2D facial recognition systems. In addition, government agencies are now effectively employing facial recognition technology to search for and identify criminals. Other federal agencies explored use cases for automated eye tracking, an emerging use case for facial analysis. The Department of Transportation used eye tracking to evaluate the performance of commercial motor vehicle drivers, train operators and air traffic controllers. NASA used eye tracking in human factors research, while the Department of Veterans Affairs purchased eye tracking equipment to help speech-impaired veterans communicate.

  • Once the system collects the raw images, the software either aligns or normalizes the data to refine the images on a granular level.
  • Government Accountability Office, 18 out of 24 federal agencies surveyed reported using an FRT system in the fiscal year 2020 for reasons including cyber security, domestic law enforcement and surveillance.
  • As we discover more ways to implement facial recognition technology, it’s important for us to understand how it works, how we can use it, and how governments and companies implement it.
  • We also participated in the NTIA face recognition multistakeholder process but walked out, along with other NGOs, when companies couldn’t commit to meaningful restrictions on face recognition use.
  • Last year, Amnesty International sued the NYPD after it refused to disclose public records regarding its acquisition of face recognition technology and other surveillance tools.
  • The Ukrainian government is using facial recognition software to identify Russian soldiers captured and dead.
  • Likewise, it did not review FRT use by independent regulatory agencies that have investigative and enforcement responsibilities, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

About the misuse of facial recognition technology—found that 18 of 24 federal agencies surveyed, including 11 of the 15 executive departments, employed at least one facial recognition system in 2020. Ten executive departments plan to expand their use of facial recognition systems through 2023. The first step in the facial recognition process involves collecting the raw images of the individual. Facial recognition systems require the user to stand before a camera, or, if used for covert surveillance or security, they may secretly photograph a person’s face using a CCTV camera. The federal government has several face recognition systems, but the database most relevant for law enforcement is FBI’s Next Generation Identification database which contains more than 30-million face recognition records. FBI allows state and local agencies “lights out” access to this database, which means no human at the federal level checks up on the individual searches.

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3D imaging technology also compensates for many obstacles affecting a traditional 2D-imaging system’s ability to identify a face. However, this technology still requires additional research and development before we can reliably deploy it. The roll, pitch, and yaw of the raw images collected must possess a variance of at least +/- 5 degrees of rotation. Later, with mathematical algorithms, the system converts these refined images into the appropriate verification and enrollment templates. Given the potential for misidentification with this technology, semi-automated systems prove more dependable in their final decisions. Facial recognition technologies affect us all as we clearly each have the one thing required for these powerful biometric tools to identify us, a face.

Amnesty International then worked with data scientists to compare this data with statistics on stop, question and frisk policies and demographic data. Some 3D imaging systems employ laser scanners instead of cameras to sense facial features. Moreover, these scanners require 30 seconds or more to capture and process the raw image of a face.

face recognition technology

“It’s a high bar to be able to use it and that’s the way it should be,” Boyce, who retired in 2018, told ABC News. “We don’t use it for anything other than a criminal investigation, and we wrote a very strict policy on this, because it was under scrutiny by a lot of people.” The logo of the New York City Police Department is placed on a surveillance camera in New York, Sept. 12, 2019. “They not only deserve but demand that police respond to reports of crime and apprehend those responsible,” Miller said. TSA amended its aircraft operator security program to permit the use of FRT systems to identify passengers checking baggage for flights.

Dead, 3 Injured In ‘targeted’ Shooting In Northern Indiana, Police Say

The Defense Department, the Justice Department, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the General Services Administration, and the Social Security Administration all used FRT for additional purposes. The Defense Department is developing the Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System to issue identification cards with consistent formatting and to enable employees to verify their identity. The Justice Department deployed FRT in educational settings to demonstrate how the technology works. NASA’s Johnson Space Center piloted FRT verification software for employees who had forgotten their badge but canceled the program due to cost. The General Services Administration and the Social Security Administration conducted employee pilots to assess using FRT for accessing government websites.

Chris Gorman is a student at Harvard Law School, where he is on the executive boards of the National Security Journal and the National Security & Law Association. Previously, Chris worked as a management consultant, advising public sector defense and security organizations on strategy and technology issues. Two federal agencies—DHS and State—have also entered into FRT agreements with foreign governments. DHS worked with Australia and the United Kingdom to assess FRT capabilities, while State donated FRT equipment to Mexico and Guatemala and trained Mexican officials on how to use it.


For instance, the e-Passport infrastructures of many nations use facial recognition to identify travelers. Major international airports also use large-scale facial recognition to search for suspects on terrorist watch lists. Legislation to stop government use of facial recognition and other biometric technology.

While the report provides an insightful overview of FRT use across the federal government, it is not all-encompassing. Further, the GAO surveyed only the 24 agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. The report thus did not review potential FRT usage by independent intelligence agencies like the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The NYPD used FRT in at least 22,000 cases between 2016 and 2019, Amnesty International said, according to data S.T.O.P, an anti-surveillance non-profit, was able to obtain from the NYPD through the city’s Freedom of Information Law. Amnesty International’s findings are based on crowdsourced data obtained as part of the Decode Surveillance NYC project, which mapped more than 25,500 CCTV cameras across New York City. The raw image must include an entire composite of the head, neck, and shoulders, and the individual must possess a full head of hair. To compensate for these obstacles, researchers and developers have begun implementing a process known as 3D face recognition via the use of 3D imaging (three-dimensional imaging). With facial recognition becoming more accurate, we see it more in our lives, as many use it to access their phones with a mere glance. After Virginia passed a law that restricted the use of FRT by state and local law enforcement.

Eff’s Work On Face Recognition

“If I had to give it a number, I would say they went up something like 10%,” Boyce said of the department’s closing rates. Stay tuned for a future article in which we will examine the mathematical models that are used in facial recognition, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. If using structured lighting, the facial recognition system must flash a defined, structured pattern onto the face to help compute depth. If using stereo imaging, the system must utilize at least two cameras, each mounted at a fixed distance. The ACLU works in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

3D face recognition3D imaging technology, however, remains in the research and development phase. So, as of now, we only use it to complement 2D systems in applications requiring more precise imaging, or in environments where capturing raw images is very difficult. Of 52 agencies surveyed by Georgetown that acknowledged using face recognition, less than 10% had a publicly available use policy.

Agencies used memoranda of understanding—agreements that require no external approval—to share access to their FRT systems with interagency and nonfederal partners. Additionally, some federal FRT systems pulled directly from other federal and nonfederal FRT databases as part of their facial identification searches. For example, the FBI’s Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation Services Unit had access in 2020 to the FRT systems of two federal entities and 21 states.

Summary Of The Gao Report On Federal Use Of Facial Recognition Technology

The Washington Post reported in 2013 that 26 of these states allow law enforcement to search or request searches of driver license databases, however it is likely this number has increased over time. Face recognition is a method of identifying or verifying the identity of an individual using their face. Face recognition systems can be used to identify people in photos, video, or in real-time. The NYPD has been using FRT since 2011 to identify suspects whose images “have been captured by cameras at robberies, burglaries, assaults, shootings, and other crimes,” according to the NYPD’s website. However, the department says that “a facial recognition match does not establish probable cause to arrest or obtain a search warrant, but serves as a lead for additional investigative steps.” The project’s goal was to find surveillance cameras in New York City and reveal where people are most likely to be tracked by face recognition technology .

Other changes in appearance such as growing or removing facial hair, aging, and the presence or absence of accessories on the face (e.g. hats, sunglasses, contact lenses instead of eyeglasses) can also trick facial recognition systems. Face recognition systems use computer algorithms to pick out specific, distinctive details about a person’s face. These details, such as distance between the eyes or shape of the chin, are then converted into a mathematical representation and compared to data on other faces collected in a face recognition database. The data about a particular face is often called a face template and is distinct from a photograph because it’s designed to only include certain details that can be used to distinguish one face from another.

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