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Facial Recognition Tech Used by FBI, ICE Highlights Need for Citizen Consent, Regulation

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In this photo taken Tuesday, May 7, 2019, is a security camera in the Financial District of San Francisco. San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies as the technology creeps increasingly into daily life.
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AP Photo / Eric Risberg

Documents obtained through a US government watchdog revealed nearly 400,000 facial recognition searches, utilizing image databases from agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, have been logged without civilian or congressional consent. A technologist told Sputnik it highlights why “technology and policing should be completely separate.”

Government public records documents requested by Georgetown Laws Center on Privacy and Technology detailed that, nationwide, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have conducted some 390,000 facial recognition searches since 2011. The documents were obtained via the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a US government watchdog.

"They've just given access to that to the FBI," the House Oversight Committees ranking Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan, said during a committee hearing on facial recognition technology in government last month. "No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver's license, got their driver's licenses. They didn't sign any waiver saying, 'Oh, it's OK to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.' No elected officials voted for that to happen."

With companies such as Amazon, IBM and other giants seeing opportunities an industry virtually unregulated by the government, there are quite a few concerns being raised within the tech community. To further identify these potential threats to public safety and privacy, Radio Sputniks By Any Means Necessary was joined by technologist Cory Lancaster on Tuesday.

“From an efficacy perspective, its really important to understand that facial recognition algorithms are a machine learning technique,” Lancaster highlighted to hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.

She went on to explain that this means the software would have to gather multiple angles and features of a particular face in order to increase the systems reliability. Being that the public only has knowledge of state drivers license photo databases being accessed, Lancaster said ICEs facial recognition tech raises the question: where else is the government pulling information from?

“I think technology and policing should be completely separate. I think that technology is in such an innovative space that its just too sensitive of a tool to be introduced into the criminal justice system,” the technologist argued.

Lancaster warned that one of the biggest issues with facial recognition software is how it deals with black and brown people in a society that already punishes “marginalized communities to the nth degree”

The technologist noted that one individual who has been speaking about the potential dangers of the tech, especially when unregulated, is Joy Buolamwini, a Ghanaian-Am

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