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Facial recognition technology facing backlash

Posted: 8:01 AM, May 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-14 14:20:02-04

On Tuesday, San Francisco leaders could vote to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies. Such a ban would be the first to be adopted by a U.S. city, but many said they believe it will send a message to other cities that are considering using the technology.

The Denver Police Department is currently looking into facial recognition technology, but has not started using it. However, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it uses the Morpho Face detective and Morpho Face expert programs. Both allow CBI to up load images to search against mug shots in a federal database. The agency said it is still working on the system, training and the development of policies surrounding it.

Facial recognition is already widely used at places like airports and large public events. It's often touted as a way to keep the public safer, by allowing law enforcement to identify suspects in crimes, find missing children and prevent fraud. The Colorado Information Sharing Consortium lists several examples of how facial recognition has been used in Colorado.

Critics of the technology have said there are problems with accuracy and racial bias. Studies have shown facial recognition is better at identifying Caucasian faces than darker skin tones. There are concerns this can lead to false matches, since minorities are disproportionately represented in mug shot databases.

Others are concerned about applications that have nothing to do with safety: For example, stores using facial recognition to target ads to customers. And on the far end of the spectrum, one could foresee an Orwellian dystopia where the government tracks our movements with real-time facial recognition. At one point the CBI considered purchasing a livestream facial recognition program. CBI tells Denver7 it did not end up pursuing that program.