House committee requests facial recognition details from 10 cities

May 24, 2017 - 

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has sent letters to the mayors of 10 metropolitan cities, requesting their policies regarding facial recognition technology, according to a report by GCN.

Concerned about the privacy of innocent citizens amid reports that facial recognition technology (FRT) is less accurate at identifying people of color, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent letters to the mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

In the letters, the mayors were asked about information “relating to the retention and use of photographs collected by or accessible to” local law enforcement agencies, manufacturers, providers or federal agencies.

They were also asked to provide a full inventory of their facial recognition systems, including details about costs, technology updates and whether any aspects of the systems were funded by federal grants.

The letters state that the cities were selected based on information learned at the committee’s March 22 hearing regarding policies on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology (FRT), or reports of each city’s use of FRT.

The committee is specifically interested in real-time FRT, systems that allow searches of databases of driver’s licenses ID photos or mugshots, technology that can identify people driving in and out of a city, use of the technology by law enforcement to aid criminal investigations, public posting of facial recognition policies, and contracts with facial recognition software firms that include strong accuracy requirements.

The requested information is intended to help the committee “better understand the technology, legal standards, and policies governing the use of this facial recognition technology … to safeguard American citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.”

All 10 city mayors are asked to respond to the committee by May 31.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.