How Is Facial Recognition Technology Used in Criminal Cases?

 Posted on March 17,2021 in Criminal Defense

Connecticut criminal defense attorney for facial recognitionTechnology is always improving, and as computers get faster and more efficient, more and more people have welcomed these devices into their homes and used them in nearly every aspect of their lives. However, many people do not realize the full extent that these systems play both on the personal level and in society at large. One issue that has affected people in recent years is the increased use of facial recognition technology in criminal cases. Police officers and law enforcement officials regularly use these tools to identify suspects and make arrests, but the limitations of technology and the biases built into these systems may result in wrongful arrests or convictions.

Problems With Facial Recognition

The use of automated facial recognition tools has become widespread in the United States, and unfortunately, it is not always clear when law enforcement is allowed to use this technology. Regulations vary from state to state, and while some cities have banned the use of facial recognition by police officers, most states have not placed any limitations on when or how these tools can be used.

Police may use facial recognition in a variety of ways, such as by comparing photos of suspects with a state’s database of driver’s license photos or a city or state’s collection of mug shots of people who have previously been arrested. In some cases, law enforcement officials may even use tools sold to them by private contractors that search through photos that are available online, such as on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram.

Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with the use of this technology. Studies have found that the algorithms used by these programs work best on photos of white men, but they are less likely to be accurate when identifying women, people of color, children, or elderly individuals. Error rates are highest for Black women, with programs misidentifying them 35% of the time. Issues of racial bias are also a significant factor in these cases. Since Black people are much more likely to be arrested than white people, identifying suspects by searching through databases of mug shots will perpetuate these inequalities and cause Black people to continue to be disproportionately targeted for arrests and criminal prosecution.

Due to the increased attention that is being paid to this issue, city and state governments and private organizations have begun to take steps to limit the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. Recently, Massachusetts passed a law requiring police officers to obtain a court order before performing facial recognition searches, except in emergency situations. Multiple companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM, have also stated that they will no longer sell facial recognition products or services to police departments. 

Contact a Hartford Criminal Defense Attorney

While some steps are being taken to protect people’s rights by limiting the use of facial recognition, this technology continues to play a significant role in many criminal cases. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help defendants understand the best ways to address this issue, including determining whether evidence obtained through illegal or improper facial recognition searches can be suppressed in a criminal trial. To learn how we can help you protect your rights, contact our Connecticut criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 and schedule a free consultation today.


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