WASHINGTON — The faces of 117 million Americans — around one-third of the nation’s population — are on file in law enforcement databases, used regularly by facial recognition software to check against images of suspected criminals.
And most Americans don’t even know it.
The data is part of a new report from the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law School.
“Law enforcement face recognition is unregulated and in many instances out of control,” according to the report, dubbed “The Perpetual Line-Up.”
Researchers at Georgetown made 100 records requests to police departments as part of what the report called “the most comprehensive survey to date of law enforcement face recognition.” The investigation lasted a full year.
Facial or face recognition software consists of sophisticated algorithms that carefully examine the faces within photos, supposedly spotting the targeted person out of millions of possibilities.
What the report discovered was both shocking and disturbing. At least 26 states – and perhaps as many as 30 – allow law enforcement to “run or request searches against their databases of driver’s license and ID photos.” Roughly one in two American adults had his or her ID photo searched this way.