“More and more, what you’re going to see is criminals and other people whose images were taken over the years are digitized, [and] put into these databases, and incidents like Boston will be easier to solve.”
— James Albers, senior vice president for government operations for MorphoTrust USA, on the growing use of facial photo databases by law enforcement. Yes, it’s yet more fuel for those concerned about Big Brother. Amid all the news about U.S. government surveillance that supposedly mostly targets foreigners, the Washington Post reports that state-level facial-recognition programs “more typically involve American citizens.” The programs have helped police find criminals by comparing images on surveillance videos and social networks to official databases that contain driver’s license and state ID photos. According to the Post, 26 states have facial-recognition systems and let cops search (or request searches) them; 11 states have such systems but do not allow law-enforcement searches; and 13 states don’t have facial recognition for driver’s license photos.
Facial-recognition technology is growing more sophisticated. “It’s not like CSI or NCIS or Minority Report, but it’s getting there,” Paul Schuepp, president and CEO of Animetrics, said recently in an article run by Discovery news. And databases are trending toward greater access. “As a society, do we want to have total surveillance? Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are … without any immediate probable cause?” Georgetown University law professor Laura Donohue told the Post.
Photo of sample Arkansas driver’s license from Bay Area News Group archives. Arkansas has a database of 2 million photos, according to the Washington Post.