Report: Law Enforcement Face Recognition is Unregulated and In Many Instances Out Of Control. But Here’s What You Can Do About It.

cover of The Perpetual Lineup report shows group of african americans with their faces being photographed as they are just standing on the sidewalk clearly doing nothing wrong
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Math isn’t colorblind and algorithms don’t care about free speech, but police and the FBI are treating face recognition and other mass surveillance technology as if they are divorced from the realities of centuries of repressive policing.

A new report by Georgetown’s Center for Privacy & Technology raises serious concerns about the impact of FBI and state and local police use of facial recognition software on everyone, and on people of color and people engaged in protests in particular.

And we should all be worried.

The report, The Perpetual Lineup: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America digs deep into the way the “colorblind” technology is being used by police and makes these key findings:

Facial recognition software isn’t going away, so the Department of Justice needs to step in immediately to understand how it is being used, and adopt policies to ensure that civil rights and civil liberties are not being abused. BORDC/DDF joined with 51 other organizations to ask the DOJ to do just that, in a letter sent today (see below).


Activists also need to engage on this issue. The report includes important recommendations, and includes model legislation for activists to use in their states, as well as a model policy for police use of facial recognition technology.

Activists can begin by asking local police and elected officials about how police are using the technology. Those questions are included in the report, and available here.

Coalition Letter to DOJ re: Facial Recognition 10-18-2016 by Defending Dissent Foundation on Scribd