Ten federal agencies are expanding their use of facial recognition

·Associate Editor
·2 min read

The Government Accountability Office has revealed in a new report that 10 federal agencies are planning to expand their use of facial recognition. In a survey involving 24 federal agencies on their use of facial recognition technology, the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Treasury and Veterans Affairs departments told GAO that they're planning to use facial recognition in more areas through fiscal year 2023. 

As The Washington Post notes, most agencies already use facial recognition to give their personnel access to their phones and computers. However, there's a growing number of agencies using it to investigate crime and to track people. The Department of Agriculture apparently wants to monitor the live feeds at its facilities and scan for individuals in the watch list. Another agency wants to use it to automate identity verification for travelers at airports. 

The agencies are planning this expansion despite the strengthening pushback against facial recognition systems. They're still far from being perfectly accurate, especially when identifying women and POCs, and have led to false arrests in the past. In Detroit, their use led to the wrongful arrest of two men last year, both of whom are Black. The states of Massachusetts, Maine and Virginia banned law enforcement from using facial recognition. At the same time, several cities across the US, including Portland, Oregon, had also restricted their use. GAO's report noted, however, that "recent advancements in facial recognition technology have increased its accuracy and its usage."

Ten of GAO's respondents have also revealed they've been involved in the research and development of facial recognition tech. For instance, they're looking into the technology's ability to identify individuals wearing masks and to detect image manipulation. In addition, several agencies, including the Justice Department, the Air Force and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, admitted to using Clearview AI. Clearview has been under fire for scraping people's images from social networks over the past years without the companies' knowledge or consent to build its database. As of last year, the system, which can identify people in real time, was reportedly in use by 600 police departments across the US, including the FBI and DHS.

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