Tampa Police Nix Facial Recognition


The Tampa Police Department has scrapped its controversial security camera system that scanned faces of civilians on city streets. Police cite the system’s failure for the past two years to recognize anyone wanted by authorities.

The system, which was made and paid for by Identix Inc., was intended to recognize the facial characteristics of felons, sexual predators and runaway children by matching faces of passers-by in Ybor City with a database of 30,000 mug shots. The Ybor City program was the first such deployment in the U.S. The technology was also used during the 2001 Super Bowl.

Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder said the department decided not to renew its annual agreement with Identix to use the company’s facial recognition product because “while the software proved reliable in testing, there have been no positive identifications or arrests attributed to the software.” No comment was made as to whether the lack of results was due the software or database used.

Civil rights groups, which denounced the plan at its inception as an invasion of privacy, are pleased with the move. “Before, every person who walked down the street was subject to an electronic police line-up without their consent,” says Darlene Williams, chairwoman of the Greater Tampa Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

According to a spokesman for Identix, the company’s product is used in a similar fashion in Virginia Beach, Va., and London.

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