Facial recognition software is in the news again. Previously we’ve discussed Facebook’s facial recognition software, which, among other things, encourages your Facebook friends to tag you in their pictures of you. Now the police are using similar facial recognition software, along with pictures that they are finding on Facebook and other social media, to identify suspects.
Here’s how it works: police finds images of possible suspects on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. Then they run the image through their own facial recognition software, which looks for matches in databases containing mugshots and related information.
For example, the New York Police Department (NYPD) recently cracked a case in which a woman’s jewelry was stolen, and she believed that a friend’s boyfriend was the culprit. She did not know the boyfriend’s name, but the police easily found a picture of the boyfriend in his girlfriend’s Facebook account. They ran that picture through their facial recognition software, and bingo! It was a match to someone in their database.
Said an NYPD spokesperson, “We did not have his name, but we found a photo and the Facial Recognition Unit got a hit. It saved a ton of time and potentially dangerous investigative legwork.”
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In another case, they had a suspect’s picture from an in-taxi camera that was in the taxi of the taxi driver that he had robbed at gunpoint. When NYPD ran that image through their facial recognition software, it was a match to someone who had twice been in prison for burglary.
Now think about this – when the police get a picture of a suspect off Facebook, as they did with the jewelry theft, it’s entirely possible that the reason the picture is on Facebook, attached to a name, in the first place is because of Facebook’s own facial recognition software, and its tagging feature.
Indeed, Facebook’s facial recognition software itself came under the scrutiny of the Senate Judiciary over privacy concerns.
We imagine that it won’t be long before one of these suspects who was identified this way brings their own lawsuit, or tries to have a conviction overturned, based on the privacy concerns inherent in the use of facial recognition software, particularly if it involved Facebook’s tagging them through facial recognition.
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