Facing a growing public backlash, the security industry called on Congress Wednesday to regulate the use of surveillance systems that match faces of people on the street with a database of known criminals. Joseph Atick, CEO of Visionics Corp, a developer of face-scanning biometric systems, along with Richard Chase, executive director of the Security Industry Association (SIA), said the federal government needed to step in to ensure that such systems could not be used by police or private corporations to track or compile profiles of innocent citizens. “This discovery was intended to bring a benefit to society and the world, and my feeling about it is I need help from the federal government to make sure there is no room for misuse,” said Atick. Since police in Tampa, Fla., first used Visionics’ FaceIt® system to scan the crowd at the this year’s Super Bowl football game, facial-recognition systems have come under fire from civil-liberties groups and lawmakers who say they invade privacy and create the potential for a Big Brother-like state of constant surveillance. Tampa has since linked FaceIt to 36 surveillance cameras in a popular nightlife district, but the City Council nearly discontinued its use in a 4-3 vote last week. Atick, backed by SIA, said police departments and others should be limited to only using the system to track convicted criminals, search for fugitives and other specific purposes. Users should not be able to track ordinary citizens, he said, and should be penalized if they do so.

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