Can I phone a friend? How cops circumvent face recognition bans

Police in multiple major US cities have figured out a trick to circumvent their cities’ bans on facial recognition technology. Just ask a friend in a city without any such restrictions to do it for you.

It’s not immediately clear how widespread such side-stepping of facial recognition restrictions in the US may be. According to the Washington Post’s review of police documents in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, however, it’s definitely something that’s gone on in at least two major US metropolitan areas.

WaPo reported over the weekend that SFPD and APD have both sought help from neighboring cop shops on occasion, though with different levels of success. San Francisco cops have reportedly sought facial recognition searches from other agencies on five occasions since 2019, but never got a match back; Austin police, on the other hand, have sent at least 13 searches since 2020.

“Some” of the searches from APD returned hits, and multiple suspects in Austin have been arrested and charged as a result of the searches, WaPo said.