Seattle police will soon be able to use facial-recognition technology to compare images of unidentified suspects with an extensive database of jail mug shots, reports the Seattle Times. The City Council has approved the police department's use of facial-recognition software under a policy created with input from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. Until the software goes into use later this year, police will continue to compare manually photos captured by surveillance cameras with jail-booking mug shots, a painstaking, time-consuming process.
Investigators also send out bulletins to other police agencies hoping that someone will be able to identify surveillance images, said Assistant Police Chief Carmen Best. The new computer software will allow police to scan quickly some 350,000 jail mug shots to determine whether there is a match with a suspect's photo. “It's called booking-photo comparison software,” said police spokesman Mark Jamieson. “The software measures the distance of points on the face using an algorithm of individual matching points on the eyes, the ears, the nose and the chin. Everybody's face is unique to them, kind of like a fingerprint.” The ACLU’s Doug Honig said the organization had concerns that facial-recognition software could be used “on fishing expeditions,” to identify people in crowds, protests, over a live stream, or anyone not necessarily suspected of a crime.