Local Police Now Using the Same Face and Eye Scanning Technology As U.S. Military
Your local police may be soon armed with a new weapon in their fight against crime
Sheriff departments throughout Massachusetts have adopted new handheld devices that will use eye scanning, digital fingerprinting and face recognition technology to help them keep tabs on the bad guys. The information collected will then be added to police databases across the country and checked whenever officers feel they have nabbed a suspect or have been given a fake ID.
This comes on the heels of the U.S. Military using similar devices to collect information on suspected terrorists and Taliban members in the Middle East. There, the devices were used to track potentially dangerous individuals who might have changed their appearance via fake IDs or shaving. Some might assume that this technology being in the hands of the police would make the streets a little bit safer, but not everyone feels that way.
“The police fingerprint people when they arrest them, but this may allow them to face scan people left and right,” says Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy and Technology Program said in an interview with The Loop 21. “What these systems do is hook criminals and probably innocent people into criminal justice databases, which are already filled with errors. It’s bad enough that the FBI already has inaccurate information. With police running around doing it, it makes things worst.”
The state of Massachusetts is the first to have local law enforcement using these devices. So far they have collected 70,000 photos, and Brockton Police in Eastern Massachusetts is boasting that the technology helped them arrest a suspected killer from leaving the country. Stanley and the ACLU are still skeptical though.
“We are still on the cusp of this technology meaning there will still be all kinds of problems,” said Stanley to The Loop 21. “We don’t want a world where the police will start collecting fingerprints and eye scans at will or on innocent people. Plus, we already know minorities will be disproportionately targeted and effected.”
“We wouldn’t ask if we didn’t have reasonable and articulable suspicion that they either had just committed a crime or were about to commit a crime,’’ said Brockton Police Chief William Conlon to the Boston Globe. “We’re not going to just stop people on the street and say, ‘Hey, come here, who are you?’”
So far the devices are only being used to process people at correctional facilities and booking stations. For everyone else, the scans are voluntary. But Stanley calls bullsh*t.
“Formal regulations need to be used when talking about these devices,” he tells the Loop 21. “We don’t need to be fooled into thinking that these scans are voluntary. When a police officer is in your face or standing over you with one of these things, that doesn’t sound too voluntary to me.”