Facial biometrics purchased by Anaheim police, considered by California and Boston lawmakers

facial-recognition-database

Anaheim police will purchase forensic biometric facial recognition software from Veritone after getting approval from city officials, the Orange County Register reports.

The department had already been using the technology during an 18-month trial, and will now spend $35,000 on a one-year subscription, according to the report. Two civilians within the Anaheim Police Department, one a gang investigator and one an office specialist with the homicide unit, were trained in the software’s use.

“What this does is makes it possible for us to investigate crimes that we might not have been able to investigate,” Anaheim Police Department Sergeant Shane Carringer told the Register.

“If all we have is surveillance … it allows us to check those images of those suspects and compare it with our database of booking photos.”

He also said the software has been used to solve more than 150 cases so far. One of those cases involves the upload of a suspect sketch.

While California banned the use of facial recognition on police body cameras last year, Carringer emphasized that his department’s use of the technology is narrow in scope.

Further legislation on facial recognition is being debated at the state level, with California lawmakers considering a bill which would require consent for enrolling a person’s facial image into a biometric database, unless there is probably cause they have committed a crime, according to Stat News.

The implementation of new systems to track people with COVID-19 infections lends new urgency to the bill, Stat News writes, noting that such systems with facial recognition have been recently implemented in a Florida hospital, and pitched to various industry verticals in Texas.

Microsoft supports the proposed bill, which was proposed in mid-February by Los Angeles-area Democrat Ed Chau, but dozens of groups have come out against it, according to the report, and a letter co-signed by 18 healthcare and legal scholars from around the country.

“This bill threatens to further entrench inequity and divert money from vital public health resources while ushering in a nightmarish future of unprecedented biometric surveillance,” they write in the letter.

Microsoft called the legislative proposal “a thoughtful approach” and said it provides safeguards to balance opportunities and risks created by the technology.

Boston considers new limitations

City Councillors in Boston have expressed concern about the use of facial recognition for law enforcement, and discussed prohibiting its use by local agencies, the Boston Globe writes.

Council President Kim Janey repeated claims that facial recognition produces too many false matches, particularly for black and Asia people, and suggested it is not suitable for law enforcement.

“The benefits of that technology, right now, don’t outweigh the risk,” she said during a virtual meeting. Another councillor noted that public trust of government is already low.

The city does not currently use facial recognition, but has a surveillance system contract due to expire imminently. New guidelines for city surveillance and information sharing between school districts and the police were also discussed.

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