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Concerns regarding facial recognition use by law enforcement

One of the things police sometimes use in their investigations are databases. There are various types of databases police might turn to, including those involving DNA or fingerprints. One type of database that has been growing in its police use in recent times are photo databases.

Specifically, some agencies have been turning to using facial recognition software to try to identify criminals. The software can compare a person’s face to photos within a database. The photos in such databases could come from various sources, including police records.

Now, this tactic does raise some potential concerns, including:

  • Privacy concerns.
  • Concerns about its impact on minorities. There are worries that African-Americans may be disproportionally represented in police photo databases.
  • Concerns over where the photos in the databases are coming from. In addition to photos from police records, some states allow such databases to also include photos from identification documents, like driver’s licenses.

Given these concerns, one might hope this tactic would be one states and the federal government would regulate closely. However, it appears this is generally not the case. A recent report, done by a think tank, found that this method was not subject to much in the way of strong rules.

The report recommended stronger oversight by states and Congress on this front. It included suggestions on things that could be regulated to address some of the concerns the tactic can raise. What do you think states, including Wisconsin, should do when it comes to police use of this method?

When police take any sort of database-related actions in an investigation, how proper the actions are, including how closely they follow any applicable regulations, can have major implications for suspects. So, the propriety of police’s database-related conduct (including conduct related to photo databases) in an investigation can be an important thing to look into in criminal cases. Experienced attorneys can assist individuals accused of a crime with looking into this and other important defense issues.

Source: The New York Times, “Study Urges Tougher Oversight for Police Use of Facial Recognition,” Daniel Victor, Oct. 18, 2016

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