WASHINGTON – Law enforcement agencies across the country are using facial recognition technology for criminal investigations, and now a new watchdog report shows a lack of oversight in the use of the systems by some federal agencies.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that 13 of the federal law enforcement agencies surveyed who use facial recognition technology have no system in place to track when or how employees use the system or to assess the privacy risks associated with it evaluate the use.
In fact, some didn’t find out that employees were using the technology until after the agency interviewed and asked about it.
“They found that employees were actually using the technology, and they had used it for over 1,000 facial recognition searches,” said Gretta Goodwin, GAO director.
The lack of awareness and oversight leads to privacy concerns.
“There are certainly data protection laws that must be complied with. So if authorities don’t have insight into how the technology is being used, there is a possibility that privacy laws are being abused, ”Goodwin said. “One of our recommendations is that the authorities better understand what technology they have and how the technology is used.”
Federal agencies listed in the report that must implement a mechanism to track the technology include the FBI, DEA, US Marshal’s Service, and US Customs and Border Protection, among others.
The federal ministries that oversee the listed agencies agreed to the recommendations, according to the report.
The report said federal agencies used the technology in part over the past year to identify suspects in rioting during the riot last summer and to identify suspects in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
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