Almost half of the adult population in the US feature on facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI. Images are stored, without the knowledge or consent of those featured. This is part of the body's ongoing hunt for suspected criminals.
Approximately 80% of the photos on the FBI's network are non-criminal entries and includes images from passports and driver licences. A committee working to review America's law enforcement's policies on facial recognition technology heard details of the system, which is inaccurate around 15% of the time. The committee heard how the software is more likely to wrongly identify black people than white people.
The FBI has been criticised by politicians and privacy campaigners, who are now calling for strict regulation of the facial recognition technology.
“Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation,” said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz. “But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public.”
Deputy Assistant Director of Criminal Justice Information at the FBI, Kimberly Del Greco has claimed the technology has “enhanced the ability to solve crime” and emphasised that the system was not used to purely to identify suspects, but to create “investigative leads”.