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Facial recognition gains for shoplifting investigations jeopardized by policy gaps

Facial recognition gains for shoplifting investigations jeopardized by policy gaps

Facial recognition is being used to identify shoplifters in London and in Evansville, Indiana, but also generating controversy.

Metropolitan Police have matched 149 suspects from 302 still images captured by CCTV cameras after writing to a dozen major retailers in London to collect images of each’s 30 top shoplifting offenders, the BBC reports.

Met Commissioner Mark Rowley, who has been among the leaders of the push for facial recognition to combat shoplifting, called the results “game-changing,” and says they show that most of those caught “are career criminals involved in serious crime.”

In Evansville, Indiana, police are using Clearview AI to help identify shoplifters, but an article in local publication The Evansville Courier & Press suggests they are playing fast and loose with probable cause rules.

The article notes that Clearview’s terms of use, as well as past comments from CEO Hoan Ton-That, make clear that facial recognition matches have the same value as anonymous tips. Local police, however, have claimed positive identifications with the technology,

EPD Chief Billy Bolin says Clearview has been used by officers on patrol to identify people they encounter with biometrics.

The federal Department of Justice’s facial recognition policy clearly states that “Face recognition search results are not considered positive identification and do not establish probable cause, without further investigation.” Indiana State Police policy says matches are to be treated only as a lead, not positive identification. A local prosecutor compared facial recognition to polygraph lie detector tests, which are allowed to be used as evidence in court only under certain conditions.

The analysis of documents obtained by Courier & Press shows that facial recognition has been used as part of the probable cause for arrest warrants issued by Vanderburgh County judges. The vast majority cited additional evidence, according to the report. The lack of a specific policy for police, and apparently of understanding on the part of the judiciary, however, is fuel for opponents of the technology’s use in law enforcement.

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