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Use of Facial Recognition Technology Grows for Law Enforcement Purposes

The Raleigh, N.C., Police Department is the latest to choose the technology for criminal investigations.

The use of facial recognition software continues to grow in the public safety realm as law enforcement agencies deploy the technology for “one-to-one” identification purposes. That means using the technology to try to identify an individual from a mug shot-type of photo or a still from a video.

The Raleigh, N.C., Police Department is one of the latest to announce it will deploy the technology, in this case, as a one-year test in which the department will use it for informational purposes on potential crime suspects, according to a report in the Raleigh News and Observer.

Facial recognition technology works by identifying in a photograph features of a face and calculating the measurements of the cheeks, nose, eyes and other facial features. Detectives in Raleigh, beginning in November, will examine arrest photos for leads on other crimes.

The department was awarded a grant by the Governor’s Crime Commission of $43,650 to purchase the software.

The use of the technology is growing. A Washington Post report said that 37 states are now using it in their driver’s license registries and another 26 states have law enforcement agencies using it in criminal investigations.

Police in Charleston, W.Va., recently used it to identify two grand larceny suspects, who were captured on video going through a safe and a cash register in a bar they had broken into. Clear images from the video were used and matched a mug shot of one of the suspects.

The FBI announced recently that it will collect 52 million photos by the end of 2015, as part of its Next Generation Identification program.

Privacy advocates worry about the lack of policies and regulations involving the gathering of photos and use of the technology. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that of the 52 million photos the FBI will collect, 4.3 million of those will have been obtained for noncriminal reasons, like employer background checks.

This staff report was originally published by Emergency Management