The technology is proliferating amid concerns that it is prone to errors and allows the government to expand surveillance without much oversight.
'In August 2017, a woman contacted the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado with what seemed like a simple case: After a date at a bowling alley, she’d discovered $400 missing from her purse and asked the manager to review the surveillance footage, which showed her companion snatching the cash while she bowled a frame.
But despite the clear evidence, the search for the bowling companion floundered. The woman knew only his first name. He’d removed his profile from the dating site on which they’d met. His number, now disconnected, was linked to a hard-to-trace “burner” phone. Security video captured his car in the parking lot, but not its license plate.
The investigator, Tara Young, set the case aside to work on others. It sat on a shelf until early 2018, when she ran into a colleague who was testing out the department’s new facial recognition system.
Young gave the officer a picture of the bowling companion taken from the victim’s cellphone. He plugged it into the software and up popped a mugshot of a man who looked a lot like the date thief.
It was Young’s first experience with facial recognition, one of the most powerful and controversial technological innovations of the 21st century. It gave her dormant case new life, and showed her its potential to transform policing.
Her investigation “would have been at a dead end without the facial recognition,” Young said. “It’s huge.”
A DISPUTED TOOL GOES MAINSTREAM
The technology-driven revolution in policing is unfolding in big cities and small communities around the country, as more police departments purchase facial recognition software. The government “facial biometrics” market — which includes federal, state and local law enforcement — is expected to soar from $136.9 million in 2018 to $375 million by 2025, according to an estimate by market research firm Grand View Research. Driven by artificial intelligence, facial recognition allows officers to submit images of people’s faces, taken in the field or lifted from photos or video, and instantaneously compare them to photos in government databases — mugshots, jail booking records, driver’s licenses.
Unlike DNA evidence, which is costly and can take a laboratory days to produce, facial recognition requires little overhead once a system is installed. The relative ease of operation allows officers to make the technology part of their daily work. Rather than reserve it for serious or high-profile cases, they are using it to solve routine crimes and to quickly identify people they see as suspicious.'
Read more: How facial recognition became a routine policing tool in America
Facial recognition wrongly identifies public as potential criminals 96% of time, figures reveal
'Facial recognition technology has misidentified members of the public as potential criminals in 96 per cent of scans so far in London, new figures reveal.
The Metropolitan Police said the controversial software could help it hunt down wanted offenders and reduce violence, but critics have accused it of wasting public money and violating human rights.
The trials have so far cost more than £222,000 in London and are subject to a legal challenge and a separate probe by the Information Commissioner.
Eight trials carried in London between 2016 and 2018 resulted in a 96 per cent rate of “false positives” – where software wrongly alerts police that a person passing through the scanning area matches a photo on the database.
Two deployments outside the Westfield in shopping centre in Stratford last year saw a 100 per cent failure rate and monitors said a 14-year-old black schoolboy was fingerprinted after being misidentified.
Police allegedly stopped people for covering their faces or wearing hoods, and one man was fined for a public order offence after refusing to be scanned in Romford.
Scotland Yard called the trials “overt” but The Independent found shoppers unaware facial recognition was being used, and campaigners accused police of rolling out the technology “by stealth”.
The figures did not cover two of the Metropolitan Police’s 2019 facial recognition trials, which will be included in its own review.
The force said eight arrests resulted from the most recent deployment, as a direct result of a flagging system for wanted violent criminals.
“All alerts against the watch list are deleted after 30 days and faces in the video stream that do not generate an alert are deleted immediately,” a spokesperson added.
Big Brother Watch, which obtained the data through a freedom of information request, called for police to drop the technology.'
Read more: Facial recognition wrongly identifies public as potential criminals 96% of time, figures reveal