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Judges decide cops can’t use black-box biometrics systems in criminal case

Judges decide cops can’t use black-box biometrics systems in criminal case

In an enforceable blow for transparency in facial recognition, an appeals court in the U.S. state of New Jersey has ruled that a defendant in a criminal trial must be shown information about systems being used to incriminate him.

A three-judge appellate panel in the Superior Court of New Jersey this week ruled that defendants have the right to know certain raw information about the AI algorithm used to match his face against a database of faces.

The court decided that the defendant will be shown the face-matching system’s error rate, its performance against metrics like those used in the NIST Face Recognition Vendor Tests, how it operates and its algorithm.

They can also get information about the database, including how it is managed, how images are gathered and the number of the images held, according to court documents.

As such, the appeals court is saying the use of biometrics in crime investigations is no different than, say, a police officer’s use of a laser system to cite drivers for driving too fast.

The case at hand, No. A-3078-21, published by legal database Bloomberg Law, involves a man, Francisco Arteaga, defending against first-degree robbery, aggravated assault and a pair of weapons charges.

A face image of a suspect culled from two video cameras in and near a retail store was analyzed by the state’s Regional Operations Intelligence Center, but no matches were found, according to court documents.

Rather than re-analyze the image at the center, detectives sent all raw footage to the New York Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center, which found a “possible match.” A digital lineup was created, and two store employees independently identified the suspect as the man who robbed the business three weeks after the event. The NYPD’s facial recognition capabilities were provided by Idemia and DataWorks Plus, at least as of 2019.

The judge in the original trial ruled that the defendant did not need access to the face-matching system. That was reversed on appeal.

Writing for the appellate panel, Superior Court Judge Hany Mawla said, The “defendant must have the tools to impeach the State’s case.”

Friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the defendant were written by the American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Innocence Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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