Is Facial Recognition Technology Racially Biased?

 Posted on July 12,2023 in Criminal Defense

b2ap3_thumbnail_Untitled-16.jpgDigital technology has revolutionized many aspects of modern life, although many people may not realize the extent to which computer systems track their movements, their online activities, and other information about them. One area that has caused some concern involves the use of facial recognition technology by police. This technology may be used to identify suspects, perform arrests, and prosecute alleged offenders on criminal charges, but it is prone to errors. In fact, there have been several instances in which people have been falsely arrested, and studies have found that many of these cases involve racial bias.

Wrongful Arrests of Black Men Due to Facial Recognition Technology

There have been a number of instances in which police have arrested people solely based on false identifications provided by facial recognition systems. In one case, a man in Georgia was arrested due to a warrant issued in Louisiana based on a match in a facial recognition database, even though he had never been to the state. In another, a man in Detroit was arrested based on video footage of a jewelry store robbery, but police did not perform any other investigations beyond identifying his image using facial recognition software.

The common factor in these and other cases involving false identifications by facial recognition technology is that the suspects were Black. While Black people already face discrimination in the criminal justice system, this issue is becoming even worse due to the biases embedded in facial recognition systems. One study found that police departments that used facial recognition technology arrested Black suspects at a 55 percent higher rate and white suspects at a 22 percent lower rate.

There are several reasons why facial recognition systems can be biased. These systems often search through image databases that include mugshots, and since Black people are arrested at higher rates, their images are more likely to be included in these databases. In many cases, the programmers who develop these systems are not racially diverse, and they bring their inherent biases to the creation of algorithms. They may also fail to use sufficiently diverse photos to "train" these systems and ensure that they can distinguish between people of different races. At the same time, there are no established guidelines on how the results of searches should be interpreted, and this is likely to lead to more false matches.

Another key concern about the use of this technology involves the lack of clearly defined policies for how facial recognition searches should be performed. Without standards in place, inaccurate matches and false arrests are more likely to occur. Police departments should ensure that personnel are properly trained to use these systems, and they should not rely solely on the results of a search to issue a warrant or perform an arrest. Instead, facial recognition matches should be considered a tip or a lead, and further investigations should be performed to uncover evidence indicating whether a person may have committed the offense in question. Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies fail to meet these standards, and as a result, facial recognition technology has led to more unfair treatment of minority suspects.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

Anyone who has been arrested and charged with a crime will need to understand what they have been accused of and the reasons they were identified as a suspect. In cases where wrongful arrests occur due to the use of facial recognition technology or other biased forms of investigation, suspects will need to determine how to address these issues and demonstrate their innocence. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, our Connecticut criminal defense attorney can provide effective legal representation in these situations, and we fight to ensure that our clients are treated fairly at all times. To learn how we can help address wrongful arrests and defend against criminal charges, contact us at 860-290-8690 and set up a free consultation today.


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