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Not Even the Government Knows the Full Extent of how Government is Using Facial Recognition

( – A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says at least 20 federal agencies are using facial recognition technology, and not just the obvious acronyms like the FBI, TSA and ICE. Agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the FDA and NASA are using the tech, too.

And 13 of those agencies, more than half of those using facial recognition, don’t know what systems their employees are using or how often they use them. The agencies that do keep track say they’ve used it for identifying people at the January 6 insurrection and during last summer’s protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd. This includes the U.S. Postal Service, according to Gretta Goodwin, director of the GAO’s homeland security and justice team.

The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Gretta Goodwin: The Postal Inspection Service used facial recognition technology in conjunction with the civil unrest that happened last year. So, what they told us that they were looking to see, you know, whether U.S. Postal property had been damaged, whether mail had been stolen, so they use facial recognition technology to help them identify individuals that way.

Kimberly Adams: Are all of these agencies allowed to use facial recognition in the way that they’re doing it?

Goodwin: I will say it depends. And let me explain to you why. So, some of the law enforcement agencies own their own facial recognition technology systems, and they use it for things like identifying employees. Some of the other law enforcement entities use the facial recognition technology for surveillance, or for identifying anyone who might be committing a crime. We looked at two types, so we asked agencies whether they owned their own facial recognition technology, and we asked agencies whether they use another entity’s facial recognition technology. And so, some of the agencies that we surveyed use another entity’s facial recognition technology.

Adams: And you mean other government entities?

Goodwin: Not necessarily. Sometimes they would use another government entity’s facial recognition technology system, sometimes they would use a private entity’s facial recognition technology system. Some of the private entities have access to a number of different types of images that law enforcement might not have access to.

Adams: It seems like there’s concern that maybe law enforcement officials would have access to a database, say like Clearview AI, scrapes photos from social media. But these are photos that normally law enforcement couldn’t look at or use without a warrant, right?

Goodwin: That is correct. That is correct. And so, when the law enforcement agencies were making use of private companies’ facial recognition systems, such as a Clearview AI, they were accessing photos that they would not have normally been able to access because of privacy and civil liberties concerns. Read Full Article >

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