Privacy Group Sues NYPD for Not Releasing Facial Recognition Docs

Privacy concerns are growing over the lack of transparency by the NYPD and its use of facial recognition technology.

NEW YORK CITY – The Center for Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law is suing the New York City Police Department for refusing to release documents related to its use of facial recognition technology.

The group previously filed a freedom of information request for the documents during research for an October report that called for new laws on how police departments can search photo databases using the technology, according to NBC News.

“The department’s claim that it cannot find any records about its use of the technology is deeply troubling,” says David Vladeck, the privacy group’s faculty director.

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The privacy group is now asking a court to force the NYPD to turn over any paperwork, citing statements from NYPD personnel in the press about how much they depend on facial recognition.

The facial recognition technology, which works by searching a database of known images, such as mug shots, and algorithmically comparing them with other images, has faced criticism in recent years amid fears that it may lack accuracy, lead to false positives and perpetuate racial bias.

In 2016, the NYPD said its facial recognition unit had conducted 8,500 investigations, resulting in 3,000 matches and nearly 2,000 arrests. In a 2015 interview, a sergeant said the unit had “only misidentified five people.”

The privacy group says the technology can be an invaluable tool, but more needs to be done to address privacy and civil liberties issues.

Vladeck, adds “If no records exist, that means that there are no controls on the use of face recognition technology and we ought to worry about that. If there are records, then why did the Police Department say that it couldn’t find them? The lawsuit we’ve filed aims to get to the bottom of those questions.”

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About the Author


Steven A. Karantzoulidis is the Web Editor for Security Sales & Integration. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Communication and has a background in Film, A/V and Social Media.

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