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Florida town installs live facial recognition to protect against 3 trespassers

Florida town installs live facial recognition to protect against 3 trespassers

Lakeland, Florida is not known as a particularly violent city. It does not appear on lists of America’s most crime-ridden towns. But it is home to one of the first installations of real-time public facial recognition in the U.S.

The first among the cameras have been installed by the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority (LDDA), according to local NBC affiliate WFLA. The Ledger counts 14 cameras in the project, and says they are running Verkada software. The installation is expected to be complete at the end of April. The cameras cost $115,000.

Three individuals, specifically, are concerning enough to be placed on a biometric watchlist so they can be identified in real-time. They have histories of trespassing at local businesses or the farmer’s market, or threatening businesses’ staff.

If the live facial recognition detects any of those three people, it sends an alert to local police, as well as LDDA Clean and Safe Manager Tony Davila.

Nate Freed Wessler of the ACLU calls the deployment “a five alarm fire for privacy rights.”

Footage from the 360-degree cameras is stored for 30 days, but can also be downloaded by users. Those with access to the footage include the LDDA, Lakeland police, city parking staff and the owners or managers of downtown buildings.

A meeting of the LDDA board in January heard from Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor and City Attorney Palmer Davis, according to The Ledger. Privacy concerns were not raised, nor was the use of facial recognition on the public surveillance cameras.

LDDA Executive Director Julie Townsend told Fox 13 in January that “If you’re behaving well, you should have no problems,” and suggested that expectations of privacy in public spaces are unfounded.

Deployments of facial recognition for use with cameras in public spaces in the U.S. have mostly been confined so far to retrospective or “forensic” investigations. Police in Florida have at least looked into acquiring the capability in the past, however. Real-time facial recognition has proven much more popular among police in the UK

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