October 18, 2016

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter today to the Justice Department urging it to investigate the increasing use and impact of face recognition by police.

The letter, sent in partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comes amid mounting evidence that the technology is violating the rights of millions of Americans and having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Also today, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology released a report finding that police departments across the country are frequently using face recognition technologies to identify and track individuals — whether crossing the street, captured on surveillance cameras, or attending protests. The report highlights that existing deficiencies are likely to have a disparate impact on African-Americans. 

“We need to stop the widespread use of face recognition technology by police until meaningful safeguards are in place,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “Half of all adults in the country are in government face recognition databases, yet the vast majority of law enforcement agencies using this technology lack clear policies, audits to ensure accuracy, and transparency.”

Today’s letter, sent to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was signed by 52 diverse organizations.  The letter explains how federal, state and local police forces use driver license photos to identify suspects —without warrants, accuracy tests, or audits.

“We would not let anyone drive a car without working brakes,” continued Guliani. “Similarly, technologies like face recognition should not be deployed without basic safeguards to ensure that they do not harm the very communities they seek to protect.”

Today’s ACLU and Leadership Conference coalition letter is here:
https://www.aclu.org/letter/coalition-letter-department-justice-civil-rights-division-calling-investigation-disparate

The Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology report is here:
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