Federal Use of Facial Recognition Technology Expanding: GAO Report

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) survey shows that at least 10 federal agencies have plans to expand their use of facial recognition technology over the next two years—a prospect that alarms privacy advocates who worry about a lack of oversight.

The GAO released the results of a survey of 24 federal agencies, finding that 18 of them use facial recognition technology. Fourteen of those agencies use the tech for routine activity, such as unlocking agency-issued smartphones, while six reported using facial recognition software for criminal investigations and five others use the technology for surveillance, the Aug. 24 report found.

“For example, [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] reported that it used an FRT system (AnyVision) to monitor its facilities by searching live camera feeds in real-time for individuals on watchlists or suspected of criminal activity, which reduces the need for security guards to memorize these individuals’ faces,” the GAO said. “This system automatically alerts personnel when an individual on a watchlist is present.”

According to the GAO, at least 10 government agencies plan to expand their use of facial recognition technology through 2023. To do so, many agencies are turning to the private sector.

For example, “[the] U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations reported it began an operational pilot using Clearview AI in June 2020, which supports the agency’s counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigations,” the GAO said.

“The agency reported it already collects facial images with mobile devices to search national databases and plans to enhance searches by accessing Clearview AI’s large repository of facial images from open sources to search for matches.” – READ MORE

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