Government Reveals U.S. Agencies Using Facial Recognition

The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that, out of 24 U.S. government agencies surveyed, 19 of them are using facial recognition, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and numerous other smaller agencies. The GAO report added that as use of facial recognition “continues to expand … members of Congress, academics, and advocacy organizations have highlighted the importance of developing a comprehensive understanding of how it is used by federal agencies.”

The Verge reports the GAO found that “four separate agencies … used Clearview AI, a controversial private company that compares new photos against data scraped from social media platforms.”

Of those, the DHS and Justice Department used it “for conventional law enforcement searches, while the Department of the Interior employed the system through the U.S. Park Police.” The fourth agency, the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), launched a Clearview AI pilot to “assist with identifying subjects of a criminal investigation.”

In a previous report, the GAO determined that “federal agencies have few meaningful systems in place to track the use of privately contracted facial recognition systems,” such as TacID Guard Dog, used by the Department of Energy to “monitor entry and exit from controlled locations,” and the Department of Defense.

DHS uses “the Automated Biometric Identification system to process travelers at border crossings, while the FBI’s Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation service (or FACE) allows for broad matching capability in criminal investigations.”

Customs and Border Protection “continues to expand the use of facial recognition in airports, both as part of the Biometric Exit program and in voluntary programs like Global Entry … [and] the TSA is currently testing a new facial recognition system as part of its credential verification system.”

Engadget reports that the U.S. Air Force and Immigration and Customs Enforcement also use Clearview AI, which “has been under fire for scraping people’s images from social networks over the past years without the companies’ knowledge or consent to build its database.” It adds that, “as of last year, the system … was reportedly in use by 600 police departments across the U.S.”

For more information on the GAO report, “Facial Recognition Technology: Current and Planned Uses by Federal Agencies,” click here.

The Register reports that South Korea’s Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC), the government data protection watchdog, conducted “a privacy audit last year and has revealed that three companies — Facebook, Netflix and Google — were in violations of laws and had insufficient privacy protection.”

Facebook was ordered to pay “6.46 billion won (US$5.5m) for creating and storing facial recognition templates of 200,000 local users without proper consent between April 2018 and September 2019 … [and] another 26 million won (US$22,000) penalty was issued for illegally collecting social security numbers, not issuing notifications regarding personal information management changes, and other missteps.”

Related:
The Government Is Going to Use Facial Recognition More. That’s Bad, Popular Science, 8/28/21