Facial recognition software raises issue of privacy rights in criminal process, P.1

Law enforcement is a difficult job, and the tools, strategies, and resources agents and officers use to do their work can make it much easier for them to accomplish their goals. Emerging technology can certainly play an important role in law enforcement, but it is important that its use doesn’t go unchecked. The resources and strategies at the disposal of law enforcement must used properly and without infringing upon the rights of criminal suspects.

One law enforcement tool that is currently coming under some fire in Maryland and elsewhere is the use of facial recognition software, which allows officers to compare photographs of criminal suspects with photos contained in various databases of photographs.

Different states allow different uses of the technology, some giving law enforcement more access than others and some which not allowing any use of the technology. In Maryland, police are allowed to compare images of unidentified criminal suspects with photos contained in motor vehicle records. State authorities also provide the FBI with access to driver’s licenses, mug shots from local police, and motor vehicle records. Maryland’s use of facial recognition is has been called “aggressive” by both critics and proponents because it is so open and extensive.

There are several concerns with facial recognition software as used by Maryland law enforcement. For one thing, there is the issue of privacy. Officers are not required to obtain a warrant before running a search, which means they can search records quite readily, with no oversight from the court system. This, in turn, can lead to abuse of the technology and compromise of the criminal process.

We’ll say more about this in our next post.


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