Study: 1 in 2 Americans' faces are in FBI facial recognition system

Facial recognition in law enforcement may be a technological advancement, but two new reports are raising questions about how it's used and who it's used on.

According to a new study from Georgetown Law, 1 in 2 Americans' faces are now in the FBI's facial recognition database. At that rate, the study says most people in the networks are law-abiding citizens.

SEE MORE: FBI Director James Comey Wants To Protect People's Privacy — Sort Of

And that's raising a lot of concerns over a possible invasion of privacy. The FBI's database is basically a virtual line-up of possible criminals. But according to Georgetown, you can't say "no" to being included like you could if you were asked to come to the police station.

The report also raises questions on whether the FBI is using facial recognition to stifle free speech and if the systems disproportionately affect ethnic and racial minorities.

The findings have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to call for an investigation into the FBI's use of the unregulated software.

See more on the FBI:

Meet the 9 women of the FBI's Most Wanted list
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Meet the 9 women of the FBI's Most Wanted list

1968: Ruth Eisemann-Schier

Eisemann-Schier, disguised as a man, and her lover kidnapped Barbara Mackle, 20, a student at Emory University in Atlanta, on Dec. 17, 1968. 

Photo courtesy: FBI

1969: Marie Dean Arrington

Arrington, then 36, escaped from the Lowell Correctional Institution Annex in Marion County, Florida, in 1969 while she was awaiting execution for the murder of a legal secretary for the lawyer who'd failed to get her two children acquitted of felony charges. 

Photo courtesy: FBI

1970: Angela Davis

Davis, then 26, was a famous communist organizer who'd been fired from her job as an assistant philosophy professor at UCLA when a guns she'd bought were used in the armed escape of three murder defendants from a Marin County, California, courtroom in August 1970. 

Photo courtesy: FBI

1970: Bernardine Dohrn

Dohrn, a leader of the Weather Underground, also known as the Weathermen, was listed in 1970 for her general radical activities.

Photo courtesy: FBI

1970: Katherine Ann Power & Susan Edith Saxe

Power and Saxe, then 21 and radical roommates at Brandeis University, and two male ex-convicts robbed a Boston bank.

Photo courtesy: FBI

1987: Donna Jean Willmott

Willmott, then 37, and her husband, Claude Daniel Marks, then 38, had already been fugitives for two years when they were added to the FBI list in 1987 in connection with an attempt to help radical Puerto Rican separatist Oscar López Rivera escape from federal prison.

Photo courtesy: FBI

2007: Shauntay Henderson

Henderson, then 24, the alleged leader of a Kansas City, Missouri, gang, captured March 31, 2007 — the same day she went on the list — in connection with the 2006 execution-style shooting death of a man who was sitting in his car outside a convenience store.

Photo courtesy: FBI


The ACLU is also calling for investigations of police departments, like Baltimore's, which may have used facial recognition on pictures of protesters to search for people with outstanding warrants.

One of the big causes for concern is the technology still has a lot of bugs. A recent study found that facial recognition software has a 50 percent error rate.

The FBI has faced criticism before for how it uses facial recognition software. Earlier this year, the bureau proposed its system be exempt from Privacy Act requirements, which would mean it doesn't have to tell individuals that they're in the system.

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