Detroit Surveillance Camera Program to Add Facial Recognition Capability

While Detroit Police say the facial recognition software will be strictly confined to investigating violent crimes, the technology still has its detractors.

DETROIT — The Detroit Police Department says it plans to integrate facial recognition software into its Project Green Light program.

Project Green Light is a video surveillance program that relays live surveillance feeds from businesses in high-crime areas directly to the Detroit Police Department. The name comes from the green light outside of businesses that signify they are part of the program.

Assistant Chief James White says the department recently bought the software for $1 million from Data Works Plus. A three-year contract allows use of the software, technical support and maintenance, according to The Detroit News.

White also say the department has been using facial recognition technology to investigate violent crimes for more than a year, borrowing software from other agencies.

“This isn’t some super-secret piece of technology,” White says. “This isn’t Big Brother, and we’re not covertly trying to monitor people. We’re not going to use it to ID everyone who goes into our Green Light locations; it will be strictly confined to investigating violent crimes.”

Police will use the software to compare images of violent offenders to driver’s license photos, social media posts, mugshots and other public databases to identify suspects.

A standard operating procedure will be in place to govern the use of the software, which will be monitored by the department’s Civil Rights Integrity Unit.

White says the unit will prohibit anyone from using the technology for anything other than investigating a violent crime.

However, the ACLU still has reservations about the implementation of facial recognition software.

“First of all, it’s shocking how inaccurate it is,” says Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the ACLU Michigan. “When MSP showed me their program, they put my face in and brought up a number of false positives. Falsely identifying people as criminal suspects could lead to a host of other potential issues.”

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