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Federal agencies plan to expand use of facial recognition technology

By
Zarrin Ahmed
Federal agencies plan to expand their use of Facial Recognition Technology by 2023. Photo by Alex Knight/UNSPLASH
Federal agencies plan to expand their use of Facial Recognition Technology by 2023. Photo by Alex Knight/UNSPLASH

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- At least 10 federal agencies will use facial recognition systems in the next few years, the Government Accountability Office said this week.

According to the GAO, out of 24 federal agencies that it surveyed, 10 agencies plan to expand using facial recognition technology by 2023 -- the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

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One agency plans to use the technology to automate the identity verification process at airports. Others are researching its ability to identify people wearing masks.

Sixteen agencies use facial recognition tech for digital access or cybersecurity, six use it to generate leads in criminal investigations, and five use it for physical security.

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The GAO said it conducted the study to understand the use of the technology across federal government "in a comprehensive way."

The 90-page report stated that the technology is mostly used for digital access and domestic law enforcement. The defense and state departments have seven systems each, Homeland Security has four and Health and Human Services has three.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that facial recognition systems are consistently biased against people of color and women, The Hill reported.

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A National Institute of Standards and Technology study in 2019 found that most of the systems have "demographic differentials" that can worsen the accuracy of the system based on a person's age, gender, or race.

Three Black men were arrested falsely on facial recognition matches and are challenging the arrests in court. Privacy advocates have raised concern that the systems constitute an overreach of state and law enforcement surveillance power. In light of these concerns, three states and dozens of cities have attempted to ban or restrict the use of facial recognition.

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