US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens.

In the United States there have been recent big privacy scandals. Not only with disasters like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica with which the US rulers were very concerned, but with cameras like Amazon’s Rings that have ended up serving to monitor what they should not monitor.

However, that government concern appears to be irregular. An investigation by OneZero has uncovered how hundreds of police departments in the United States have acquired body-worn recording cameras and to which real-time facial recognition software is being added. Neither the manufacturer, called Wolfcom, nor the police or government bodies clarify the scope and precision of a program that once again poses a threat to the privacy of citizens.

Are you guilty until proven otherwise?

The movement of these police departments is worrying and indeed goes against what seemed to be the norm in the industry. As they point out in their report, other camera manufacturers such as Axon do not integrate this technology, claiming that it raises “serious ethical concerns”, while NEC, which does offer facial recognition systems, does not sell them to law enforcement agencies in the US.

US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens

The decision of these security forces is worrying considering the movement that has emerged in the United States at the time of curb invasion of privacy that has been living for a long time. Popular initiatives join protests by big technology workers who oppose the use of certain solutions for military purposes.

Multiple emails between one of Wolfcom’s founders and police departments show how this manufacturer promoted real-time facial recognition technology as one of the great advantages of this system. “With real-time facial recognition, WOLFCOM hopes to give our friends in law enforcement tools to help them identify whether the person they are talking to is a wanted suspect, a missing child or adult, or a person of concern.” , you could read one of them.

US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens

These emails included a link to a video demonstrating the technology with three people who pretended to respond precisely to different recognition criteria. At least one police department is already testing the software in a project in beta, but the unknowns surrounding the project are worrying.

For example, there is no clarification whatsoever on the accuracy of the technology facial recognition that is used in Wolfcom cameras, called Halo, and the databases against which these real-time images are compared to provide the results are also unknown.

US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens

The next gen “Command Center System” for Police that works with Smart BodyCams, IoT devices and Facial / Object / Behavior Recognition Systems. Hope this solution will improve efficiency of Police Departments and help them to effectively manage Officers in the field 👮🏼‍♂️👮🏻‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/U0zpvfmo4E

– Mohamed Thoyyib, PhD 🇲🇻🇺🇸🇹🇭 (@thoyyu) February 25, 2020

US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens

It is not known how many (or which) police departments have decided to go ahead with these tests, and the lack of transparency throughout the process is worrying.

And yet, as the OneZero research highlights, Wolfcom continues to advance in offering a technology that has been invading various stages of public life for a long time. In California a few months ago it was raised to ban this type of facial recognition option in body cameras of police officers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation already warned of the dangers of the advancement of this technology two years ago. In February 2018 they explained how “without restrictive limits, it could be relatively easy for the government and private companies create databases of images of the vast majority of people living in the United States and use those databases to identify and track people in real time as they move from place to place throughout their daily lives. “

US Police Already Using Live Facial Recognition Cameras, Privacy Debate Reopens

The investigation joins the recent scandal with ClearView AI, that facial recognition system that this company had made available to all kinds of agencies and official bodies – police departments included – and that based on a gigantic database of images taken from social networks It allowed people to be identified by contrasting a photo of themselves in those systems.