So… you have a new friend, or a new person you are dating, maybe even a new co-worker. Who among us hasn’t used the internet to do a little online vetting of a person? Sure, you might not advertise the fact that you did it. But there’s a difference between searching and stalkingonline, right? And a little knowledge can go a long way.
The Huffington Post even published an article that featured 7 individuals’ horror storiesabout results obtained when they Googled potential partners – including criminal backgrounds, love interests being already married, and even a potential ‘datee’ being actually related to the ‘dater’.
In today’s world, there are plenty of public records search sites, like the Free Public Records Search Directory. Or if you’re only concerned about bigger problems, you can check out sites like Family Watchdog, which link directly to the National Sex Offender Registry. Worried about crimes that may not be sexual in nature? Well then, Wikipedia lists every state with links to that state’s public criminal records on file.
There’s lots of information out there available to the general public. But let’s take things one step further: let’s suppose you are one of those people who really wants to dig—and you have a like-minded friend that happens to work in law enforcement.
When you ask your friend to run a search, you may be very surprised at what you find.
The odds are 50/50 that your own face may be on file.
Half of U.S. Adults’ Faces are in Law Enforcement Databases
Yes, hard as it is to believe, about half of all United States’ adults—that’s more than 117 million men and women— currently appear in a law enforcement facial-recognition network, according to a new report by the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law.
The article, entitled, “The Perpetual Line-Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America” reveals that almost a quarter of all U.S. police departments have access to facial recognition technology. And that this emerging field is almost entirely unregulated.
How Facial Recognition Technology Works
Ex-Sight provides recognition systems and video analytics worldwide, and notes some of the benefits of facial recognition systems:
- They work with the most “obvious individual identifier – the human face.”
- The technology is unobtrusive – pictures are taken as a person enters a specific area.
- Subjects don’t feel that their privacy has been invaded.
The website also points out the fact that most subjects “are entirely unaware of the process”. This may be a significant contributing factor to why they don’t feel their privacy has been invaded or “under surveillance” – they don’t know they’re being surveilled.
Ex-Sight then explains how the systems work:
Facial recognition analyzes the characteristics of a person’s face images input through a digital video camera. It measures the overall facial structure… Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the Facial Recognition Technology are:
- Distance between the eyes
- Width of the nose
- Depth of the eye sockets
- The shape of the cheekbones
- The length of the jaw line
Warrants Not Obtained to Use Face Recognition
The study found that official legislative approval to utilize the technology had been obtained by only one of 52 agencies that acknowledged using it. Not one of the agencies required warrants before utilizing facial recognition technology—and yes, many used the technology to identify people who weren’t suspected of committing a crime.
Googling a potential date is one thing. But one’s own face being in a criminal database is another.
“Innocent people don’t belong in criminal databases,” said Alvaro Bedoya, co-author of the report and Executive Director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law. “By using face recognition to scan the faces on 26 states’ driver’s license and ID photos, police and the FBI have basically enrolled half of all adults in a massive virtual line-up. This has never been done for fingerprints or DNA. It’s uncharted and frankly dangerous territory.”
In response to the technology and fears that it will be disproportionately applied to certain segments of the population, more than 50 civil rights and civil liberties groups sent a letter to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice that called for an investigation of the way law enforcement uses the technology.
Today’s technology is truly awesome. The power of computers, the internet, and the cloud combine to allow widespread sharing of data. And yes, this sometimes creates new tools for law enforcement—and questions about rights to privacy for citizens.
But technology is also there to help your business and keep your data accessible, yet secure.
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