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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.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for digital evidenceThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that all citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government without a warrant. This provides protection against unfair tactics by prosecutors when a person is facing criminal charges. However, in the 21st century, the increased use of digital media has resulted in a slew of complexities in criminal cases. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the privacy of American citizens, but what happens when your private digital files are no longer private to only you? In some cases, the “private search doctrine” may apply.

What Is the Private Search Doctrine?

Using the private search doctrine, once a private party (who is not involved with the government) has already done an initial search, the government can repeat that search without infringing upon the property owner’s individual Fourth Amendment rights. Basically, the private search doctrine allows the government to perform a search that is not technically a search in the Constitutional sense.

A Recent North Carolina Case Sparks Controversy

In 2014, a North Carolina woman was looking for a photograph on her boyfriend’s USB thumb drive. While she was clicking through folders and subfolders on the drive, she came across a partially-nude photo of her nine-year-old granddaughter. Upset, she stopped her search and informed her daughter of the photo. The pair took the thumb drive to the police station, where a detective began to look through the folders to find the photo the woman was referring to. While the detective was looking, he saw other photos that he thought might be child pornography. Once he found the photo of the woman’s granddaughter, he stopped his search and obtained a warrant to search the thumb drive for photos of child pornography.

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