DOJ study: Police-worn body cameras increasingly recognize your face



A government report on police use of body worn cameras finds they are doing more than filming you. More and more, they're also likely to try and recognize you.

The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and sponsored by the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice, surveyed the burgeoning field of body worn cameras (BWCs) created for and sold to U.S. police departments. It found that built-in facial recognition technology, whether automatic or as an option, is on the rise, as is the ability to instantly determine whether a subject has a weapon.

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WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - MARCH 2: West Valley City patrol officer Gatrell starts a body camera recording by pressing a button on his chest before he takes a theft report from a construction worker with his newly-issued body camera attached to the side of a pair of glasses on March 2, 2015 in West Valley City, Utah. West Valley City Police Department has issued 190 Taser Axon Flex body cameras for all it's sworn officers to wear starting today. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 04: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, right, who is wearing a body camera, shows the new LAPD body camera and cell phone with special ap's that allow the officer to see what the camera is recording, during a press conference at LAPD Mission Division Friday September 4, 2015 as they talked about the rollout of the agency's officer body cameras. The rollout of the body cameras began last Monday at LAPD's Mission Division in the north San Fernando Valley when officers received final instructions on using the cameras during roll call training sessions. About 1,000 video were recorded during the first two days of operation, according to Mayor Garcetti. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - MARCH 2: West Valley City patrol officer Gatrell performs a traffic stop on the first day of use of his newly-issued body camera attached to the side of a pair of glasses on March 2, 2015 in West Valley City, Utah. West Valley City Police Department has issued 190 Taser Axon Flex body cameras for all it's sworn officers to wear starting today. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 30: A police officer wears a body camera at a rally for Michael Brown August 30, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. His death caused several days of violent protests along with rioting and looting in Ferguson. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - MARCH 2: West Valley City patrol officer Gatrell performs a traffic stop on the first day of use of his newly-issued body camera attached to the side of a pair of glasses on March 2, 2015 in West Valley City, Utah. West Valley City Police Department has issued 190 Taser Axon Flex body cameras for all it's sworn officers to wear starting today. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - MARCH 2: Several newly-deployed body cameras and batteries sit in the patrol room charging and downloading video at the West Valley City Police Department on March 2, 2015 in West Valley City, Utah. West Valley City Police Department has issued 190 Taser Axon Flex body cameras for all it's sworn officers to wear starting today. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio holds up a body camera that the New York Police Department (NYPD) will begin using during a press conference on December 3, 2014 in New York City. The NYPD is beginning a trial exploring the use of body cameras; starting Friday NYPD officers in three different precincts will begin wearing body cameras during their patrols. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: New York Police Department (NYPD) Sergeant Joseph Freer demonstrates how to use and operate a body camera during a media press conference on December 3, 2014 in New York City. The NYPD is beginning a trial exploring the use of body cameras; starting Friday NYPD officers in three different precincts will begin wearing body cameras during their patrols. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A body camera from Taser is seen during a press conference at City Hall September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department is embarking on a six- month pilot program where 250 body cameras will be used by officers. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) Washington DC Police Officer Debra Domino, Master Patrol Officer Benjamin Fettering and Officer JaShawn Colkley model body cameras during a press conference at City Hall September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department is embarking on a six- month pilot program where 250 body cameras will be used by officers. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Facial recognition features allow the user to identify or verify a person from a digital image or a video frame," the study's authors wrote. "There is no indication that these BWC systems will stop proliferating."

At least nine different device manufacturers either currently allow facial recognition with their equipment or have built in the option for such technology to be used later, the report found.

But while police cameras have the potential to significantly improve police-community relations and police accountability, some privacy advocates caution that their deployment, especially when used in conjunction with facial recognition technology, turns normal police officers into walking extensions of government surveillance.

"A lot of civil rights groups and communities have warned that body worn cameras were going to be used as a tool for police surveillance, rather than as a tool for transparency and accountability," Harlan Yu, a technologist and principal at Upturn, a think tank that focuses on the intersection of technology, policy, and social issues, told Vocativ.

A recent study by Georgetown Law found that about half of all adult Americans are already in at least one photo database accessible to law enforcement. Various law enforcement agencies' have access to photos of citizens without requiring warrants — for example, mugshots are usually fair game for police — and at least 26 states' Departments of Motor Vehicles share their databases with the FBI.

"Part of the allure [to police departments] is not necessarily transparency, but using cameras as evidence collection mechanism that will document crimes and be easier to prosecute, to help their investigations," Yu said.

An ongoing Upturn study into the country's largest police departments' use of BWCs and facial recognition technology found that the vast majority of those departments do have policies in place to guide how they use such technology, and most already employ such devices— but most departments have no policy restricting the use of facial recognition.

The post DOJ Study: Police-Worn Body Cameras Increasingly Recognize Your Face appeared first on Vocativ.


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