Tampa, Fla., is ending a highly publicized two year effort to use facial-recognition software to search for wanted criminals. The St. Petersburg Times notes that “It led to zero arrests.”
The city first used the cameras during the 2001 Super Bowl, when they monitored fans entering Raymond James Stadium. Critics called the game “Snooper Bowl.” Cameras picked up 19 possible matches with wanted criminals, but there were no arrests.
New Jersey-based Visionics Corp. offered the city a free trial of a program called Face-It, and the software was installed on 36 cameras in the Ybor City entertainment district. A police officer three blocks away monitored a wall of televisions and could pick out faces from the crowd to scan and run through a criminal database to search for matches.
Then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey called for congressional hearings on the surveillance technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union ikening it to something out of George Orwell’s novel 1984.
The system turned up faces that seemed to match but didn’t. A 32-year-old man eating lunch was seen on a surveillance camera. Tampa police used his photo to demonstrate the system to local news media. A woman in Tulsa saw the picture and said he was her ex-husband who was wanted on felony child neglect charges. Three police officers showed up to question the man at his construction job site. It turned out he had never married, never had kids, and never had been to Oklahoma.