Police Found Ways to Use Facial Recognition Tech After Their Cities Banned It

As cities and states push to restrict the use of facial recognition technologies, some police departments have quietly found a way to keep using the controversial tools: asking for help from other law enforcement agencies that still have access. Officers in Austin and San Francisco — two of the largest cities where police are banned from using the technology — have repeatedly asked police in neighboring towns to run photos of criminal suspects through their facial recognition programs, according to a Washington Post review of police documents…

Austin police officers received the results of at least 13 face searches from a neighboring police department since the city’s 2020 ban — and appeared to get hits on some of them, according to documents obtained by The Post through public records requests and sources who shared them on the condition of anonymity. “That’s him! Thank you very much,” one Austin police officer wrote in response to an array of photos sent to him by an officer in Leander, Tex., who ran a facial recognition search, documents show. The man displayed in the pictures, John Curry Jr., was later charged with aggravated assault for allegedly charging toward someone with a knife, and is currently in jail awaiting trial. Curry’s attorney declined to comment.

“Police officers’ efforts to skirt these bans have not been previously reported and highlight the challenge of reining in police use of facial recognition,” the article concludes.

It also points out that the technology “has played a role in the wrongful arrests of at least seven innocent Americans,” according to the lawsuits they filed after charges against them were dismissed.

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