Facial Recognition Technology and Law Enforcement

Ranju Das of Amazon recently unveiled a new facial recognition service called Rekognition at a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea. This service is being launched in part with the Orlando, Florida’s police department. This software is capable of live facial recognition and movement tracking using the municipality’s surveillance cameras located around the city. According to a statement from the Orlando Police Department, they are not using the technology in an investigative capacity and in accordance with current and applicable laws.

Subscribers to Amazon’s service, likely app developers, can choose how they use the service. Users simply provide an image or video to Rekognition, and the service can identify the objects, people, text, scenes and activities in the image or video. Amazon Rekognition also provides highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition to detect, analyze and compare faces for a wide variety of user verification, cataloging, people counting and public safety uses, according to the company’s website.

Google is developing a similar service called Google Vision, though Google has not released any plans to market this software to police departments.

Illinois, Texas and Washington have enacted legislation regarding facial recognition and bioinformatic software. In 2008, Illinois was the first state to pass bioinformatic legislation: The Biometric Information Privacy Act (740 ILCS 14). Texas enacted the Texas Statute on the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier in 2009, with revisions in 2017. Most recently, Washington’s Legislature enacted House Bill 1493. All three laws have similar wording. The laws restrict corporations from collecting biological information from consumers without the consumer consenting.

State policymakers must be aware of the development and implementation of facial recognition software in their state to pass appropriate legislation to regulate and validate the use of this tool in crime fighting. Many states utilize cameras as basis for traffic citations; however, many states and communities have faced legal challenges surrounding the validity of the citations. Similar arguments may be used against the utilization of a third-party software identifying persons of interests.

While real time face recognition technology is now a growing trend, police have been using facial recognition software for decades. Older software relied on still images. Now, with the capability of live streaming facial recognition, states will soon need to establish precedents and regulations regarding the utilization of facial recognition/bioinformatics software. Many states have no enacted laws regarding facial privacy or utilization of software for policing.