San Diego’s Facial Recognition Use Alarms Privacy Advocates


The Tactical Identification System, a new mobile facial recognition technology now in the hands of San Diego-area law enforcement, matches in an instant images taken in the field with databases of about 348,000 San Diego County arrestees, says the Center for Investigative Reporting. The system includes nearly 1.4 million booking photos, because many people have multiple mug shots on record. The little-known program could become the largest expansion of facial recognition technology by U.S. law enforcement.

Amid an international debate over collecting and sharing huge amounts of data, this pilot program puts that metadata to use in the field in real time. The use of this technology was rolled out without any public hearings or notice. The secrecy of the program alarms privacy experts and raises questions about whether San Diego is the leading edge of an alarming future – one in which few people escape cataloging in a government database. For some, the use of biometric technology by police is a radical milestone in the militarization of law enforcement.

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