New York Police Department Sued for NOT Providing Facial Recognition Information

This clandestine facial recognition program has the habit of misidentifying suspects, leading to the arrests of innocent people.

facial recognition

A university group concerned with people’s privacy has sued the New York Police Department over their clandestine facial recognition program that has the habit of misidentifying suspects, leading to the arrests of innocent people.

The Georgetown University’s Centre on Privacy and Technology thinktank says their reasoning for suing the department is simple: the NYPD refused to comply with the New York’s Freedom of Information Law and disclose the documents relating to the program, stemming from several years prior use.

When the university group insisted training manuals and documentation be handed over by the NYPD, they were denied. The NYPD stated they didn’t have these documents, claiming the records couldn’t be found. The university thinktank is now taking the NYPD to the court over the issue.

facial recognition
The Police Plaza, headquarters of the New York City Police Department in Lower Manhattan.

According to The Intercept, the NYPD only shared one document, which allowed officers to follow a set of guidelines in using facial recognition data against a suspicious target. This information allowed the experts to understand that such a program exists, however the complete picture on how the program works is yet to be revealed.

It has been reported that a special unit requested the data over 8,000 times. This move allowed the police to arrest over 2,000 people over the last five years.

facial recognition
New York Police Department graduation ceremony in Madison Square Garden, July 2005.

The NYPD isn’t the only one invested in the face recognition technology. The Department of Motor Vehicle facial recognition software has been responsible for more than a dozen arrests since it was updated last year. Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo likes the program so much so that he wants the camera and facial recognition technology in tunnels, bridges, airports and other critical locations.

In a perfect world, this technology will allow the government to keep a check on terrorists, however the system isn’t foolproof; the facial recognition software returns false results and usually targets women and minorities.

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